The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order:
On August 27, 2020, Nate Jones filed formal complaint 20FC:0086, alleging that the Iowa Department of Public Health (DPH) violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by refusing to release public records.
Mr. Jones included a copy of the request for records that he submitted to DPH on August 20, 2020. He requested “all documents in the Iowa Department of Health’s possession related to or mentioning the testing of the Agri Star meat and poultry plant… in May, 2020 for Covid-19, including for active and prior cases through PCR testing, serology, or other methods.”
On August 25, 2020, Mr. Jones received a response to his record request that stated the records were confidential pursuant to Iowa Code section 139A.3(2)(b) and Iowa Code section 22.7(16). Mr. Jones requested that the IPIB determine if Iowa Code section 139A.3(2)(b) was properly interpreted by the DPH and release any information that should be released pursuant to Iowa Code section 139A.3(2)(b).
The IPIB is granted the authority to review complaints, issue orders and rules, and provide guidance concerning Iowa Code chapters 21 (open meetings) and 22 (public records) pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.1. The IPIB does not provide guidance or determine compliance concerning Iowa Code chapter 139A.
The DPH also cited Iowa Code section 22.7(16) in withholding the requested records as confidential. This code section provides that certain DPH records are confidential: “16. Information in a report to the Iowa department of public health, to a local board of health, or to a local health department, which identifies a person infected with a reportable disease.” Testing results would clearly identify the individual tested. DPH posts the non-confidential data on Iowa’s coronavirus website (https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/).
Iowa Code section 23.8 requires that a complaint be within the IPIB’s jurisdiction, appear legally sufficient, and have merit before the IPIB accepts a complaint. This complaint does not meet those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:0086 is dismissed as legally insufficient pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(2) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(b).
Pursuant to Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(3), the IPIB may “delegate acceptance or dismissal of a complaint to the executive director, subject to review by the board.” The IPIB will review this Order on October 15, 2020. Pursuant to IPIB rule 497-2.1(4), the parties will be notified in writing of its decision.
By the IPIB Executive Director
Margaret E. Johnson
1. Although Mr. Jones includes the DPH reference to Iowa Code section 22.7(16) in his complaint, he only requested IPIB assistance in determining the applicability of Iowa Code section 139A.3(2)(b).
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of October, 2020, to:
Heather Adams, Ass’t Attorney General, counsel for the Iowa Department of Public Health