Why was the Iowa Public Information Board created?
The board provides an official, efficient and free legal resource for citizens and government officials with questions about Iowa open meetings and records laws, and for citizens with complaints about alleged violations of the laws. The board is also one of the few such agencies in the nation with the authority to not only advise but to enforce the state sunshine laws.
How are the board members chosen?
The nine board members are appointed by the governor subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate. No more than three members shall represent the media, and not more than three represent cities, counties or other local governments. The members serve staggered four-year terms, and the board must be balanced by political party and gender. The board appoints a chair from among its members, and it is authorized to hire at least one employee, an attorney who serves as executive director. The board is an independent agency. The nine initial appointees are:
- Robert Andeweg, Urbandale, mayor of Urbandale, Republican
- Tony Gaughan, West Des Moines, Drake University law professor, Republican
- Jo Martin, Spirit Lake, vice president for Times-Citizen Communications, Democrat
- Andy McKean, Anamosa, attorney and former legislator, Republican
- Gary Mohr, Bettendorf, community college administrator and city council member, Independent
- Bill Monroe, Johnston, retired executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association, Republican
- Kathleen Richardson, Des Moines, executive director for the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, Democrat
- Suzan Stewart, Sioux City, attorney for MidAmerican Energy Company, Republican
- Peggy Weitl, Carroll, retired Carroll County Treasurer, Democrat
What are the powers and duties of the board?
The board is authorized by statute to issue advice, or declaratory orders with the force of law, regarding the applicability of the open records and open meetings laws.
It can receive and investigate complaints alleging violations of the laws and seek resolution through informal assistance and settlement. If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, and the board has probable cause to believe the law has been violated, the board may prosecute the government body or official in a contested-case proceeding under the Administrative Procedures Act. The board can issue subpoenas to investigate complaints and prosecute cases, and it can also issue orders with the force of law to require compliance with the sunshine laws. The board also offers training in Chapters 21 and 22 to government bodies, disseminates information to the public, and submits an annual report to the governor and Legislature, making recommendations relating to access to government information.
What are the limits of the board’s jurisdiction?
The board does not have jurisdiction over the judicial or legislative branches, or over the governor and governor’s office. The board’s jurisdiction also is limited to issues involving open meetings and public records, and complaints must be filed within 60 days of the alleged violation.
What sort of protection is afforded to government officials or employees who rely on the legal advice of the board?
Declaratory orders issued by the board, determining the applicability of the open meetings or records law to specific fact situations, have the force of law. Amendments to both Chapter 21 and 22 provide protection to government officials who rely on written advice of the Iowa Public Information Board, the attorney general or the government body’s attorney.
What sorts of penalties can the board levy for founded violations of the law?
The board can assess damages, void action taken in violation of the open meetings law, and require a government body or official to take any appropriate remedial action. The board does not have the authority to unilaterally remove a person from office, but it may file an action to remove someone under Chapters 21 or 22, which include “two strikes and you’re out” provisions that direct the court to order the removal of an official upon his or her second violation during a term.
Do I have to file a public meetings or records complaint with the Public Information Board instead of going to court? If I file a complaint with the board and am dissatisfied with the result, can I appeal?
Any person, the attorney general or county attorney seeking to enforce open meetings and records laws can bring the complaint before the board, or the individual can bring an action in state district court, as under current law. If more than one party simultaneously brings an action before the board and in court, the court shall stay the case pending resolution of the complaint by the board. A final board order is subject to judicial review.
How do I contact the Public Information Board?
The board’s website is https://www.ipib.iowa.gov/.
Its contact information is:
- Iowa Public Information Board
- Wallace Building, Third Floor
- 502 E. 9th St.
- Des Moines, IA 50319
- Email: IPIB@iowa.gov
- Phone: (515) 725-1781