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 24, 2020, Amy Resh filed formal complaint 20FC:0109, alleging that the Essex City Council (Council) violated Iowa Code chapter 21 at a meeting on October 14, 2020. She stated that the Council held an electronic meeting without providing public access to the meeting.
The Council held the October 14, 2020, meeting utilizing the online application “Zoom”. Ms. Resh alleged she was not given access to the electronic meeting. She asked that the IPIB require that the Council discontinue the use of electronic meetings.
Iowa Code section 21.3 states that meetings shall be conducted in open session:
Meetings of governmental bodies shall be preceded by public notice as provided in section 21.4 and shall be held in open session unless closed sessions are expressly permitted by law. Except as provided in section 21.5, all actions and discussions at meetings of governmental bodies, whether formal or informal, shall be conducted and executed in open session.
Governor Kim Reynolds, by proclamation, has temporarily modified Chapter 21 to allow for electronic meetings pursuant to Iowa Code section 21.8 be held “provided that the governmental body provides a means for the public to participate by telephone or electronically as provided in this section.”
If a governmental body is using an online application for video and audio access to an open meeting, the governmental body must allow public access to the meeting.
In response to this complaint, the city clerk for the City of Essex provided copies of the agenda and the minutes of the meeting in question. She also provided an affidavit that described the process for access to the meeting, as well as a back-up number for people to use if they were unable to access the meeting via “Zoom” that was included on the agenda. (See Attachment A).
There is insufficient evidence supporting the allegation of a violation of Iowa Code chapter 21, as modified by the Governor’s Proclamation.
Iowa Code section 23.8(1) requires that a complaint be within the IPIB’s jurisdiction, appear legally sufficient, and could have merit before the IPIB accepts a complaint. This complaint does not meet those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:0109 is dismissed as legally insufficient and without merit 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 November 19, 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, J.D.
1. The “Zoom” application requires the meeting coordinator to authorize access for anyone asking to join the meeting. Without this authorization, a person is not able to view or hear the meeting.
2. See section 113 of the Governor’s Proclamation dated September 18, 2020.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of November, 2020, to:
Mary Ohnmacht, city clerk for the City of Essex
Mahlon Sorensen, legal counsel for the Essex City Council