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 October 13, 2020, Justin Gooder and Lonnie Hillman filed formal complaint 20FC:0105, alleging that theCity of St. Ansgar (City) violated Iowa Code chapters 21 and 22.
The complainants alleged that the violations of open meetings laws occurred on October 12, 2020, when the city council discussed an issue not specifically listed on the agenda.
Legal counsel for the City responded to the complaint on November 5, 2020, and provided a recording of the meeting. He stated that the agenda item at issue was “Addition to job descriptions.” During the discussion of the superintendent job description, information was shared about a City employee who was able to travel outside of the City while on informal rotation because his job description did not specify how and where his job was to be performed.
As noted in the minutes, a motion was made to clarify certain provisions of the job description. The minutes reflect a roll call vote resulting in passage of the amendment, three votes to two. Mr. Gooder attended the meeting electronically and discussed the modifications proposed with the city council.
The legal counsel for the City also provided a recording of the meeting. The conversation recorded included Mr. Gooder’s comments about his job performance, leading to a short discussion of how the City can ensure that employees are available to address any emergencies.
Iowa Code section 21.4 requires an agenda to be worded so that the public is “reasonably” apprised of the business to be conducted. A discussion of job descriptions would reasonably include determining how to modify a job description to meet the needs of the City and ensure that city employees are properly advised of the duties of their position. The agenda item does not appear to be insufficient.
Governmental bodies should be diligent in staying ‘on topic’ during a meeting. During this meeting, the city council did discuss some concerns about the superintendent’s ability to respond to City matters while out of state. This discussion was initially provided as an example of the need for the amendments. Mr. Gooder’s comments led to an expansion of the discussion as he appeared to think it was meant to be a discussion of his job performance, which was not on the agenda.
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:0105 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 December 17, 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 the complaint alleged violations of both Iowa Code chapters 21 and 22, only information concerning issues involving open meetings (Chapter 21) was provided. This complaint will only address allegations concerning Chapter 21.
2. Mr. Gooder serves as the City Superintendent. His job description was amended at the meeting.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of December, 2020, to:
Patrick Rourick, attorney for the City of St. Ansgar