Newspapers across Iowa this weekend (including The Des Moines Register, the Sioux City Journal, the Quad City Times, the Burlington Hawk Eye and the Cedar Rapids Gazette) began running a series of articles on the state of open government in Iowa.
The articles were based on a statewide poll commissioned this fall by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council that gauged Iowans’ attitudes toward open government issues. The poll found Iowans overwhelmingly in favor of the principles of open government, but also that most citizens know little about the nuts and bolts of the open meetings and records laws.
Candidates for the job of city administrator in Cascade, Iowa, will be in town this week, but citizens — even those who meet them — won’t know their names.
The City Council is bringing four finalists to town, but has declined to identify them. The consultant who the city hired to conduct the search says the candidates for the $55,000-69,000/year job are all from Iowa or Illinois.
A story about the Cascade search appeared in today’s Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has submitted public records requests to police departments in five Iowa cities, seeking information related to police tracking of Iowans’ cell phones.
The Iowa request is part of a nationwide project by the ACLU to monitor law enforcement use of cell phone data to monitor citizens.
Iowa State University has released a report that says it filed disciplinary cases against four faculty members in the past six months, including three allegations of sexual harassment. However, ISU is refusing to release details of the cases, saying the information is part of confidential personnel records.
The Iowa Freedom of Information Council is partnering with the Iowa League of Cities, the Iowa State Association of Counties, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa Newspaper Association and the Iowa Broadcasters Association to host a series of webinars on open government issues for both record custodians and journalists.
The webinars are:
* “Understanding Iowa Open Meetings Issues,” Thursday, Aug. 4, 1-2:30 p.m.
* “Public Records in Iowa: Know Your Rights,” Thursday, Aug. 11, 1-2:30 p.m.
* “Successfully Working with Media,” Thursday, Aug. 18, 1-2:30 p.m.
Registration is free, but must be done in advance at www.INAnews.com.
The webinars are being supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
The Iowa Legislature is still wrestling over the state budget, but some changes to Chapters 21 and 22 (the Iowa open meetings and public records laws) already have taken effect. Some of those changes (all contained in Senate File 289):
* The open meetings law was amended to require government bodies to give notice if they recess a meeting and reconvene it, unless the meeting is reconvened within four hours; the time, date and place of the reconvened meeting is announced at the original meeting, and the agenda remains the same.
* Fines for violation of the meetings and records laws were increased to $1,000-2,500.
* The public records law was amended to specify what information in personnel files of government bodies must be released. Information that is a public record: name and compensation of an individual and any employment contract; dates employed and positions held; educational institutions attended and degrees received, names of previous employers and positions held, and the fact that an individual was discharged as a result of disciplinary action, to be released when all applicable remedies are exhausted.
* If a government body enters into a settlement agreement, it must now release a summary that indicates the names of the parties, nature of the dispute and terms of settlement.
Lee County Supervisor Gary Folluo has accused the board of supervisors of holding a series of illegally closed meetings, including one on May 12 with a county attorney to discuss a lawsuit.
Falluo told the Burlington Hawk Eye that he has filed a complaint, alleging that the meeting was held in violation of the Iowa open meetings law because it was held without following proper notice procedures.