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 December 22, 2020, Clint Fichter filed formal complaint 20FC:0131, alleging that the City of Avoca (City) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Mr. Fichter alleged that he requested six records or sets of records from the City on December 16, 2020. On December 17, 2020, he alleged he was asked to complete a form that requested information such as date, name, email, phone, type of record requested, and preferred delivery method. On December 18, 2020, he alleged he inquired about the status of his request and was told that due to “a compressed calendar and monthly required tasks taking precedence, your request will be filled within 10 busines days” or by December 31, 2020.
He noted on his complaint that the records should be easily produced as they were already in existence and that he should not have been required to complete any form. He also alleged that the City was improperly conducting a review “under the provisions of (Iowa Code section) 22.7 and 22.8” in order to delay release of the records.
On December 23, 2020, the City responded to the complaint, stating that the form is used to track compliance with a record request and is not required. The City also responded that the 196 pages of requested records were released to the complaint on December 23, 2020, a calendar week after the request.
In reply, Mr. Fichter stated that the use of a form prevents physical inspection of public records. He later noted that the City does not apply the use of the form consistently.
Iowa Code chapter 22 does not require the use of a form to request and obtain public records. A government body may use a form to track record requests and may request the record requestor provide the information on the form, but may not require the use of a form. A government body is allowed to review the requested records prior to release if the government body believes that is needed. Iowa Code section 22.8(4) provides guidance for a possible delay:
4. Good-faith, reasonable delay by a lawful custodian in permitting the examination and copying of a government record is not a violation of this chapter if the purpose of the delay is any of the following:
a. To seek an injunction under this section.
b. To determine whether the lawful custodian is entitled to seek such an injunction or should seek such an injunction.
c. To determine whether the government record in question is a public record, or confidential record.
d. To determine whether a confidential record should be available for inspection and copying to the person requesting the right to do so. A reasonable delay for this purpose shall not exceed twenty calendar days and ordinarily should not exceed ten business days.
Seven calendar days elapsed between the date of the request and the record release. This delay does not violate Iowa Code chapter 22.
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:0131 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 January 21, 2021. 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. Mr. Fichter stated the records have already been circulated at a city council meeting and filed with the State Auditor and Department of Management. He also complained that he requested the records in a digital format and they were not so provided.
2. Mr. Fichter implemented the use of the tracking form when he was City manager.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of January, 2021, to:
David Larson, legal counsel for the City of Avoca