Legislation approved during the 2012 legislative session made changes to Iowa’s open meetings and open records laws, including the creation of the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB). The board’s primary task is to ensure compliance with Chapters 21 and 22 of the Code of Iowa, which are the open meetings and open records laws, respectively. Cities are encouraged to contact IPIB with any questions and work with its staff to resolve issues and find helpful resources.
Iowa Public Information Board Membership
The Iowa Public Information Board includes nine members, all of whom are appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate. There are no board positions specifically designated to be filled from a nomination by a particular organization. Instead, the bill provides that not more than three members shall be representatives from the media, not more than three members shall be representatives of cities, counties and other political subdivisions, and three members of the public.
Board Responsibilities and Powers
The primary purpose of the board is to provide an alternative means for compliance with the open meetings and open records laws as well as a cost effective process for resolving disputes. Two means of accomplishing this purpose are provided.
First, aggrieved persons, including any taxpayer or citizen of Iowa, the attorney general or any county attorney may seek enforcement of the open meetings or open records laws by filing a lawsuit or a complaint with the board. Additionally, if a person files suit to enjoin the inspection of a public record, the person requesting access to the record may remove the proceeding to the board for handling and disposition by filing a complaint with the board alleging a violation of open records laws regarding the same matter. The board’s jurisdiction is limited to issues involving open meetings and public records, and complaints must be filed within 60 days of the alleged violation.
After receiving complaints alleging violations of Code Chapters 21 and 22, the board may seek resolution through information assistance or mediation, formally investigate such complaints, determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a violation of Chapter 21 or 22 has occurred, and if probable cause is found, may prosecute the case before the board in a contested case proceeding. As a part of the investigation and enforcement process, the board may examine a record of a government body that is the subject matter of a complaint, including any record that is confidential by law. In addition, the new law grants the board the power to issue subpoenas for the purpose of investigating complaints and to facilitate prosecution.
Following this process the board may issue orders with the force of law determining whether there has been a violation of Chapter 21 or 22, requiring compliance, imposing civil penalties, and other appropriate remedies calculated to declare, terminate or remediate any violation of those chapters. This includes the power to remove a person from office if the person has engaged in a prior violation of Chapter 21 or 22 if damages were assessed against the person.
Second, the board may make available another cost effective process for answering open meetings/open records questions by either providing informal advice to any person concerning the applicability of Chapters 21 and 22 or by issuing declaratory orders with the force of law determining the applicability of Chapters 21 or 22 to specified fact situations.
The board has the ability to make training opportunities available as well as the authority to require persons who have responsibilities in relation to Chapters 21 and 22 to receive periodic training approved by the board. The board also has the power to adopt rules calculated to implement, enforce and interpret the requirements of Chapters 21 and 22, and implement the authority delegated to the board. The board may make recommendations to the Governor and the general assembly proposing legislation relating to public access to government information. The board does not have jurisdiction over the judicial or legislative branches of state government or over the governor’s office.