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 February 28, 2021, Emir Dini filed formal complaint 21FC:0013, alleging that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Mr. Dini submitted two email chains requesting records, one filed by his employee on January 28, 2021, and a separate email request he initiated on the same date. Both record requests were for “detailed figures for probable cause case findings for the past 2 years” involving discrimination and harassment reported by African-Americans. The record requests noted that such records “should already exist and require transmission, not its production. Please separate the records by either housing, employment, credit, public accommodation, etc.”
The ICRC responded to the record requests on January 29, 2021. A link was provided to the ICRC annual reports, which contained some of the information sought. The ICRC added that providing the information in the format requested by Mr. Dini would take “substantial staff time” and require payment of a fee.
Mr. Dimi’s employee agreed to pay the required fee. On February 6, 2021, the employee expanded the request to include other ethnicities. ICRC responded on February 8, 2021, that the complete record request would require four hours of staff time at $25 per hour, for a total cost of $100 for all the requested records.
On February 23, 2021, Mr. Dini objected to the payment of any fee, stating that the requested records should have been included in the ICRC annual reports. He added, “I am not paying for what should already be public information nor will I be shaken down for having expressed my displeasure with the manner in which your commission enforces civil rights.”
In its reply to the IPIB, the ICRC noted that the fee was not excessive nor retaliatory. The salary of the employee collecting the data for Mr. Dini is actually more than $25, so Mr. Dini was receiving the records at less than the actual expense allowable under Iowa Code section 22.4.
Mr. Dini alleged that the time needed to collect the data and prepare the report would be one or two hours, not four. In addition, he noted that most states provide this information without charge and that the information should be included in the annual reports.
ICRC replied to the IPIB and to Mr. Dini on March 12, 2021, noting that the ICRC does not compile the information requested by Mr. Dini in the requested format. The records would be retrieved by staff by reviewing case reports from three different email accounts and extracting the information responsive to the record request and producing a record including the requested information.
Iowa Code section 22.3(1) allows a government body to collect fees to cover the expenses “to be incurred in fulfilling the request and such estimated expenses shall be communicated to the requester upon receipt of the response.” Such expenses must be based upon the “actual costs” incurred by the government body.
Iowa Code section 22.3A(2)(d) allows the government body to charge the costs incurred when a record requester requests a specific format “that is different from that in which the public record is readily accessible to the government body and may charge the reasonable costs of any required processing, programming, or other work required to produce the public record in the specific format in addition to any other costs allowed under this chapter.”
Based upon the analysis of the processing required to compile the information into the specific format requested by Mr. Dini, four hours of employee time does not seem unreasonable. The ICRC has already decided to charge a fee for the employee time that is less than actual costs. There does not appear to be a violation of Iowa Code chapter 22.
If the employee time needed is less than the four hours anticipated by the ICRC, then the excess fees paid by Mr. Dini should be refunded.
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 fulfill those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 21FC:0013 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 April 15, 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. Expanding the record request to include other ethnicities did not increase the amount of staff time required.
2. The employee’s salary is $37.45 per hour.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of April, 2021, to:
Kaitlin Smith, Iowa Civil Rights Commission