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IPIB April Column: Are emails sent by a government body public records?

Date: 
Monday, April 5, 2021
Body: 

Question: Are emails sent by a government body public records?
 

Answer: The definition of public records under Iowa Code section 22.1(3) is broad enough to

encompass email messages and other electronic correspondence, if the email concerns public

business relating to the public duties of an official or employee.


The Iowa Supreme Court, in a 1967, pre-email decision, addressed the idea that you must look at

the contents of the document or communication to determine whether it is a public record: “It is

the nature and purpose of the document, not the place where it is kept, which determines its

status”, Linder v. Eckard, 152 N.W.2d 833, 835 (Iowa 1967).


It may be wise to add a notation to emails from government bodies to advise the recipient (and

remind the sender) of this. An example: “Email correspondence to and from this address may

be subject to the Iowa Public Records Law (Iowa Code chapter 22) and may be disclosed to third

parties.”


Did You Know that the Iowa Public Information Board staff is available to assist you with

questions or problems involving open meetings and public records in Iowa? During the month

of March 2021, 67 contacts were made with the Iowa Public Information Board office.


TYPE                                                                                          March 2021

Formal complaints                             14

Advisory opinions                                1

Declaratory orders                                0

Informal complaints                             7

Informal requests                                40

Miscellaneous                                       5

TOTAL:                                              67


Who can contact the IPIB and how long does it take? Any person can contact the IPIB for

assistance by telephone (515-725-1781), by email, or on the IPIB website. So far in 2021, 170

identifiable people have contacted the IPIB. Of these, 86 were private citizens, 62 were

government officials or employees, and 22 were members of the media. In 2021, 70% of the

incoming contacts were resolved the first day, 13% were resolved in one to five days, and 17%

were resolved in six or more days. Opinions, rulings, FAQs, reports, and training documents are

available on the IPIB website – www.ipib.iowa.gov.

Printed from the website on April 17, 2021 at 11:51am.