Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, issued the following statement today following an important Iowa Supreme Court decision in a lawsuit against the Warren County Board of Supervisors. The Iowa FOI Council and Iowa Newspaper Association submitted an important friend-of-the-court brief that provided an analysis of the issues that the Supreme Court ultimately adopted.
This clearly is a victory for the people of Iowa who want their government to be conducted in public, where they can see what is occurring.
It was obvious to the trial court, to the Supreme Court and to anyone who reads the court’s decision today that the Warren County Board of Supervisors deliberately went out of its way to avoid any public discussion of the proposed reorganization until after board members had decided how the workforce would be shrunk and whose jobs would be eliminated.
The Supreme Court decision sends a strong message to governmental bodies in Iowa.
As Justice Wiggins wrote in the majority opinion, “The Legislature clearly intended public bodies subject to the open meetings law to deliberate the basis and rationale for important decisions such as these, as well as the decisions themselves, during open meetings.”
Had the Supreme Court allowed the lower court’s decision to stand, governmental bodies across Iowa would have been handed a road map that would have shown them how to circumvent the requirements of the open meetings law.
This is an important day for people who want to monitor the work of their governmental bodies. And it’s fitting that this decision came during Sunshine Week which is held nationally each year to highlight the importance in our democracy of open and accessible government.
The text of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion and the dissents can be read here. WarrenCounty.SupCo.14-1649