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 July 18, 2021, Rhonda Dales filed formal complaint 21FC:0065, alleging that the City of Elgin (City) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Ms. Dales alleged that on July 17, 2021, she requested copies of an agenda for a July 19, 2021, city council meeting; the minutes of the July 5, 2021, meeting; and the bills to be presented at the July 19, 2021, meeting. She alleged that she received an email from the city clerk that the city attorney advised the clerk that it “would not be prudent to distribute this before the council meeting.”
Ms. Dales provided a copy of an email her attorney received from the city clerk on July 16, 2021, that stated that the minutes and bills paid had not yet been approved. The city clerk also stated that he was out of the office the next week for training and would request that the Mayor or a council member distribute the records on July 19, 2021.
The city attorney responded to the complaint and provided a copy of an email he sent to Ms. Dales’ legal counsel, indicating that his directions to the clerk were misunderstood. He indicated that he had recommended that the City wait until the meeting to provide the items in case they were modified before the meeting. He stated the records would be provided upon request in the future.
The attorney reported that the requested records had been sent to Ms. Dales’ attorney. Ms. Dales was uncertain whether her attorney had received copies of the requested records, so the city clerk sent them directly to her on August 3, 2021.1
The records requested by Ms. Dales are public records and should have been promptly released upon her request. If the minutes were not yet approved, they can be labeled as ‘unapproved minutes’ when released. Whether or not they are approved, they are public records.
It appears that there was some confusion about the directions given by the city attorney to the city clerk. Complicating the matter is that there was uncertainty about whether the records were to be provided to Ms. Dales or to her attorney and other conflicts between the parties. Following the filing of this complaint, the records were released.
Ms. Dales can continue to address her other issues with the City with the assistance of her legal counsel.
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.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 21FC:0065 is dismissed as harmless error 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. In an email dated August 3, 2021, Ms. Dales raised a number of other concerns about actions taken by the city council to fill open council seats and matters concerning an incorrect paycheck. She also alleged that she is treated unfairly at council meetings and that the city council has engaged in improper closed sessions in the past. These matters were not alleged in the formal complaint.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2021, to:
Jeremiah White, attorney for the City of Elgin