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 June 25, 2021, Linn Snell filed formal complaint 21FC:0057, alleging that the City of Elberon (City) violated Iowa Code chapter 21 at a meeting on June 7, 2021, by failing to provide 24 hour notice of the meeting.
Mr. Snell alleged that the agenda for the June 7, 2021, council meeting was amended at the meeting. The agenda posted on June 1, 2021, listed the following agenda items: “Termination of Employment of Jed Wolfe”, “Approval of Hydrant Unlimited for Service”, and “Approval of Water Sampling/Meter Reader position/pay”. The agenda was amended with less than 24 hour notice to read: “Discussion regarding Employment of Jed Wolfe” and “Discussion of using Hydrant Unlimited for water/sewer service”, with the third agenda item remaining the same.1
Legal counsel for the City responded on July 9, 2021, stating that legal counsel had suggested that the two agenda items on the first agenda could have been better worded. The modification of the first two items was then changed at the beginning of the meeting. He noted that either wording was sufficient and provided adequate notice of the agenda items concerning the reading of the City water meters.2
Mr. Snell also alleged that the city clerk failed to fully answer the questions he raised in a letter dated June 9, 2021. In this letter, he asked for the reasons for prior council actions and shared his opinions on how the City was conducting business. Those questions were answered by the city clerk in a letter dated June 21, 2021. Mr. Snell provided a copy of a letter he sent to the Office of the Ombudsman on May 28, 2021, seeking their assistance with these issues and with his previous concerns.
Iowa Code section 21.4(1)(a) requires a governmental body to give “notice of the time, date, and place of each meeting including a reconvened meeting of the governmental body, and the tentative agenda of the meeting, in a manner reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information.” Section 21.4(2)(a) provides that such notice be given at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
The agenda posted on June 1, 2021, did provide adequate information to “apprise the public” of the matters to be considered. The amendments made at the beginning of the meeting did not change the agenda items and were no more descriptive than the wording of the first agenda.
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:0057 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 August 19, 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. Snell also alleged that the City was using a new person to read the water meters without a council vote during the spring of 2021 in violation of Iowa Code sections 362.5 and 69B(2)(a). This matter is beyond the scope of the IPIB’s jurisdiction pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 23. He also referenced a meeting on April 5, 2021, that he alleged had an incomplete agenda as well and an improper closed session. That meeting was beyond the 60 day jurisdiction of the IPIB as required by Iowa Code section 23.7(1). He raised those issues in his May 28, 2021, letter to the Office of the Ombudsman.
2. Legal counsel stated that the City was notified in the spring of 2021 that the license of the person employed by the City to read the meters was revoked. The City then used a volunteer to read meters until the City could select the new service provider at a council meeting. The initial review of the issue was discussed at a meeting on May 3, 2021, but was continued to the June 7, 2021, meeting to allow for proper notice.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2021, to:
Jennifer L. Zahradnik, attorney for the City of Elberon
And by regular mail on the ____ day of August, 2021, to:
Linn Snell, PO Box 33, Elberon, IA 52225