IPIB Monthly Column - Can our board discuss something not on the agenda? Can some of us get together after the meeting adjourns? (Chapter 21)
CAN OUR BOARD DISCUSS SOMETHING NOT ON THE AGENDA? CAN SOME OF US GET TOGETHER AFTER THE MEETING ADJOURNS?
The answer to both questions is generally “NO”.
Chapter 21 of the Iowa Code governs open meetings. The stated policy behind this chapter is to assure, “through a requirement of open meetings of governmental bodies, that the basis and rationale of governmental decisions, as well as those decisions themselves, are easily accessible to the people." Furthermore, “ambiguity in the construction or application of this chapter should be resolved in favor of openness.”
This chapter provides for reasonable notice of meeting dates, times and locations and for the posting of an agenda. A citizen cannot attend a meeting without notice. Citizens need to know what will be discussed at a meeting. Without proper notice and an adequate agenda, meetings are not open and accessible to citizens.
When the members of a government body continue to discuss an agenda item among themselves after the meeting was adjourned, the meeting is not open and accessible to the public. While the definition of a ‘meeting’ in Iowa Code section 21.2(2) requires deliberation or action and excludes ‘purely social or ministerial’ gatherings, any discussion of an agenda item can appear to reach the level of deliberation or action. Members should avoid any discussion among themselves after a meeting in order to remove even the appearance of impropriety.
Facts and Figures for September 2016 and for 2016 year-to-date:
During the month of September 2016, 78 contacts were made with the Iowa Public Information Board office.
TYPE September 2016 2016 Year-To-Date
Formal complaints 11 89
Formal opinions 0 12
Declaratory orders 0 1
Informal complaints 5 65
Informal requests 61 508
Miscellaneous 1 8
TOTALS: 78 683
Who can contact the IPIB and how long does it take?
Any person can contact the IPIB for information or assistance on an issue involving public records or open meetings by telephone (515-725-1781), by email, or on the website. So far, in 2016, 683 identifiable people have contacted the IPIB. Of these, 44% were private citizens, 43% were government officials or employees, and 13% were members of the media.
Most issues have been resolved in the same day. In the month of September 2016, 69% of the incoming issues were resolved the same day, 15% were resolved in one to five days, and 16% were resolved in six or more days.