The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Acceptance Order:
On January 7, 2021, Kay Bergren filed formal complaint 21FC:0003, alleging that the City of Otho (City) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Ms. Bergren alleged that she requested public records from the City mayor on December 8, 2020. She alleged that she did not receive the requested records. Instead, she was told to request records pursuant to the city policy. She further alleged that she was denied a copy of the City ordinances and was told she could review them at City Hall “once city hall opens back up.”
In response to her request for a copy of an audit, Ms. Bergren alleged she was told that she could find a copy of the audit on the state auditor’s website.
Subsequent to her record request, on December 22, 2020, the City adopted a records policy that requires payment for City records. Ms. Bergren alleged that the new policy imposes fees of $10.00 per quarter hour of clerk time plus $0.35 per page for public records. She noted that the first hour of clerk time is free. She alleged she was told that this policy would be imposed even though her record request pre-dated the adoption of the record policy.
In response to the formal complaint, the Mayor stated that the audit was on the state website. He also confirmed that Ms. Bergren would be required to pay the fees outlined in the policy adopted after her record request and that she would need to wait to access the ordinance book until city hall reopens.
A review of the City website shows that in January 2021, the council packet was posted and available on the website. As of February 10, 2021, the council packet for the February 9, 2021, meeting was not available on the website. City ordinances are not available and must be accessed at City Hall during regular business hours. Normal business hours are posted on the website as Monday - Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The fee policy for public record requests is not posted to the website. At the IPIB’s request, a copy of the fee policy was provided for review. Fees for record retrieval are listed as $30.00 per hour for the first hour, $10.00 per each additional quarter-hour, and $0.30 per page. The Policy requires a record requester to “put his or her request in writing using the City of Otho’s Public Records Form.” This requirement does not comply with Iowa Code section 22.4. It is uncertain whether the policy is in compliance with other sections of Iowa Code chapter 22.
It appears that the City would benefit from IPIB assistance to ensure complete compliance with 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 meets those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 21FC:0003 is accepted pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(1) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(a). Parties shall cooperate with IPIB staff to reach an informal resolution as provided in Iowa Code section 23.9.
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 February 18, 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, J.D.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of February, 2021, to:
Brian Yung, attorney for the City of Otho