20FC:0112 & 20FC:0115
The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Order to Consolidate and Dismiss.
Stephanie Latta filed formal complaint 20FC:0112 on October 28, 2020, and formal complaint 20FC:0115 on November 2, 2020. Both complaints alleged that the City of Emerson (City) violated Iowa Code chapter 21.
In formal complaint 20FC:0112, Ms. Latta alleged that the City violated Iowa Code chapter 21 as members of the city council have reportedly been observed by other citizens on unknown dates and at unknown locations discussing city business. She reported that one such event allegedly took place on August 12, 2020.
In the same complaint, Ms. Latta alleged a similar violation occurred on October 14, 2020. On this date, she stated she was contacted by citizens to report that a council member had cancelled the council meeting scheduled for that day. Ms. Latta stated that the council member was not authorized to cancel the meeting. When the meeting commenced, a quorum was not present, so the meeting was adjourned. She also alleged that this council member emailed other council members to arrange a special meeting on October 26, 2020.
In formal complaint 20FC:0115, Ms. Latta alleged that the City violated Iowa Code chapter 21 by allowing a council member to draft and post an agenda for a council meeting. Ms. Latta stated that the City code does not allow a council member to call a meeting or to draft and post an agenda. She alleged that this council member has “usurped the role of mayor and clerk and prevented the interim clerk and myself from preparing a legal meeting that follows state and local laws & ordinances.”
Legal counsel for the City responded to both complaints on November 7, 2020. He stated that Ms. Latta did not allege any violations of Iowa Code chapter 21 or 22. He stated that any alleged violation of a City ordinance would be beyond the jurisdiction of the IPIB.
Since the complainant and the respondent are identical in both complaints, and since both complaints concern an ongoing series of events, it is appropriate to consolidate the complaints.
Iowa Code section 23.1 states the purpose of the IPIB is “to provide an alternative means by which to secure compliance with and enforcement of the requirements of chapters 21 and 22….” The IPIB does not have statutory authority to review or enforce a city ordinance.
Therefore, the alleged violations as stated by Ms. Latta are beyond the jurisdiction of the IPIB either due to the filing date (more than 60 days) or beyond the scope of authority granted to the IPIB.
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. These complaints do not meet those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaints 20FC:0112 and 20FC:0115 are consolidated and dismissed as beyond the jurisdiction of the IPIB 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. If this occurred, it would be beyond the 60 day statutory limitation period for filing complaints with the IPIB pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.7(1).
2. Ms. Latta serves as Mayor for the City.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of November, 2020, to:
Brent Hinders, legal counsel for the City of Emerson