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Iowa

Open Government Guide

Author

Michael A. Giudicessi and Susan P. Elgin
Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
801 Grand Avenue, 33rd Floor
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-8011
Telephone:  515-248-9000
Facsimile:  515-248-9010
Email:  michael.giudicessi@faegrebd.com

Douglas L. Phillips
Klass Law Firm, L.L.P.
4280 Sergeant Road, Suite 290
Sioux City, Iowa 51106
(712) 252-1866, ext. 230 (telephone)
(712) 252-5822 (facsimile)
Phillips@klasslaw.com

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Foreword

Iowa’s state motto is “Our liberties we prize, our rights we will maintain.”  Iowa’s citizens and its public officials have interpreted that command favorably when considering the values and benefits of government openness and accountability, so much so that they enacted progressive freedom of information statutes in the late 1960s.

Today, however, Iowa’s enlightened approach ebbs and flows with the times, politics, and the facts of a given access issue.  Thus, while openness is presumed in the public records and open meetings statutes, often it and accountability can be assured only through vigilance, and sometimes litigation.

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Open Records

Since its enactment in 1967, the Iowa Open Records Act, Iowa Code Chapter 22, has sought to impose openness and accountability mandates on state and local agencies (but not the legislature) by requiring them to permit public access to information and records in the possession of a governmental agency or otherwise “of or belonging to” that body.  The General Assembly’s 1967 has been watered down consistently in the 50 years since passage—the act now contains some 70 exemptions to disclosure and covers important public records such as drafts. See Iowa Code § 22.7.

The open records act was enacted in response to citizen complaints about the denial of access to public records. Note, Iowa's Freedom of Information Act: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Public Records But Were Afraid to Ask, 57 Iowa L. Rev. 1163, 1166 (1972). Prior to its adoption, case law held that "Not every document which comes into the possession or custody of a public official is a public record." Linder v. Eckard, 152 N.W.2d 833, 835 (Iowa 1967).

Modern Iowa law, practice, and public policy make clear that disclosure of government records and information serves the needs and interests of the State and its people.  This follows because the open records act and the cases applying and enforcing it: (i) start with a presumption of openness, and (ii) favor results that enhance the public’s ability to stay informed about governmental activities, the citizenry’s right to hold officials accountable and the taxpayers’ prerogative to know how agencies spend their money.

Thus, Iowa’s public policy goals, as enunciated in Chapter 22, provide an essential backdrop to the access statute.  The open records act expressly declares “that free and open examination of public records is generally in the public interest even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment to public officials or others.”  Iowa Code §22.8(3).

The open records act “is designed ‘to open the doors of government to public scrutiny’” and “to prevent government from secreting its decision-making activities from the public, on whose behalf it is its duty to act.”  Gannon v. Bd. of Regents, 692 N.W.2d 31, 38 (Iowa 2005) (citations omitted); Northeast Council on Substance Abuse, Inc., 513 N.W.2d at 759.  The statute “invites public scrutiny of the government’s work, recognizing that its activities should be open to the public on whose behalf it acts.”  Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 45 (Iowa 1999) (citations omitted).

Under Chapter 22, “any person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code §22.2.  The paramount public interest in securing access to government information is reinforced by the penalty provisions within the open records act.  Id. §22.6.

Exemptions in the statute create categories where the lawful custodian may elect to keep public records confidential.  Id. §22.7.  The rules for interpreting the scope and application of those exemptions are well settled.  The open records act “establish[es] a liberal policy of access from which departures are to be made only under discrete circumstances.”  Howard v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 283 N.W.2d 289, 299 (Iowa 1979); see also City of Dubuque v. Tel. Herald, Inc., 297 N.W.2d 523, 526 (Iowa 1980) (“It is plain that our analysis must start from the premise that [the Act] is to be interpreted liberally to provide broad public access to * * * public records”).

Exemptions are not designed to defeat the evident purpose of the statute as the “legislature intended for the disclosure requirement to be interpreted broadly, and for the . . . exceptions to be interpreted narrowly.”  DeLaMater, 554 N.W.2d at 878.  “Disclosure is favored over non-disclosure, and exemptions from disclosure are to be strictly construed and granted sparingly.”  US West Commc’ns, Inc., 498 N.W.2d at 713.

However, an emerging trend involving statutory construction of the act questions if, when the plain text of an exemption is clear and precise, any balancing of interests is appropriate and courts instead should enforce the confidentiality provisions without consideration of competing values.  Am. Civil Liberties Union Found. of Iowa, Inc. v. Records Custodian, Atlantic Cmty. Sch. Dist., 818 N.W.2d 231, 236 (Iowa 2012).

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I. Statute

"The purpose of chapter 22 is to remedy unnecessary secrecy in conducting the public's business." US West Commc’ns, Inc. v. Office of Consumer Advocate, 498 N.W.2d 711, 713 (Iowa 1993). “The Act carries with it ‘a presumption of openness and disclosure.’” In re Langholz, 887 N.W.2d 770, 776 (Iowa 2016) (citing Iowa Film Prods. Servs. v. Iowa Dep’t of Econ. Dev., 818 N.W.2d 207, 217 (Iowa 2012) (citation omitted)). Rather, the purpose of the Act is to ensure transparency, “open the doors of government to public scrutiny,” and prevent the government from acting in secret. Iowa Film Prods. Servs., 818 N.W.2d at 217 (quoting Rathmann v. Bd. of Dirs., 580 N.W.2d 773, 777 (Iowa 1998) (citation omitted)); Press-Citizen Co. v. Univ. of Iowa, 817 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Iowa 2012).

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A. Who can request records?

The act should be interpreted liberally and should provide broad access to public records. Rathmann, 580 N.W.2d at 777.

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1. Status of requester

There is no limitation on who can request records. "Every person shall have the right to examine and copy public records . . . ." Iowa Code § 22.2(1) (2017) (emphasis added). See generally Ne. Council on Substance Abuse, Inc. v. Iowa Dep’t of Pub. Health, 513 N.W.2d 757 (Iowa 1994).

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2. Purpose of request

The statute does not limit access to records based upon the purpose of the request. See id. See also 78 Op. Att'y Gen. 725, 728 (Oct. 30, 1978) ("Certainly [the statute] does not concern itself with the purpose of the examination.").

Those whose records are records "of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D [the Iowa Pari-mutuel Wagering Act], or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council or committee of any of the foregoing" are subject to the statute. Iowa Code § 22.1 (2017).

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3. Use of records

The statute does not limit the use of the records.

No restriction is placed on subsequent use of information provided. "Every person shall have the right to . . . publish or otherwise disseminate public records or the information contained therein." Iowa Code § 22.2(1); 78 Op. Att'y Gen. 725, 728 (Oct. 30, 1978) ("Certainly [the statute] does not concern itself with . . . the use which is made of the information obtained.") See also 68 Op. Att'y Gen. 656 (April 8, 1968).

This includes the right to copy, make photographs, and make photographic copies of the record. Iowa Code § 22.2(1).  The purpose for which data is obtained is immaterial. 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 212 (August 13, 1981) ("The fact that the information . . . may be used for political purposes does not bar examination and copying.") 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 76,77 (April 6, 1981) ("[T]he fact that the requestor intends to utilize the records for commercial purposes is not a bar to examination and copying of public records.") 74 Op. Att'y Gen. 430, 432 (February 2, 1974) ("'The statute does not make any distinctions as to the purpose for which public records may be used.'").

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B. Whose records are and are not subject to the act

1. Executive branch

No provision is made in the statute for exclusion of records in the custody of individual executives such as the governor, the several mayors, etc.

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2. Legislative bodies

Similarly to how executive branch records are treated under the law, no provision is made in the statute for exclusion of records in the custody of legislative bodies or the courts. "It is the nature and purpose of the document, not the place where it is kept, which determines its status." 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 19, 20 (Oct. 9, 1979). Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. Pub. Records v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666, 670 (Iowa 1992) ("The nature of the record is not controlled by its place in a filing system."). But see Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Dwyer, 542 N.W.2d 491, 503 (Iowa 1996) (finding that the Senate decision to keep the records in question confidential falls within the constitutionally granted power of the Senate to determine its rules of proceedings under Iowa Const. Art. III, § 9). The Dwyer decision puts separation of powers considerations into issue both as to legislative and judicial branch records, although the Supreme Court has analyzed access issues involving its documents as if the open records act applies.

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3. Courts

The Osmundson and other cases indicate the Court considers that both common law and statutory rights of access apply to judicial branch records.  Records are not confidential simply because a court is the lawful custodian. Instead, the nature of the document over which the court has custody is determinative. See, e.g., Iowa Code § 598.26(1) ("Until a decree of dissolution has been entered, the record and evidence shall be closed to all but the court, its officers, and the child support recovery unit . . . .").

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4. Nongovernmental bodies

"The term 'governmental body' means this state, or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, tax supported district, nonprofit corporation whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D, or other entity of this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, committee, official or officer of any of the foregoing or any employee delegated the responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter [chapter 22]." Iowa Code § 22.1(1).

Governmental bodies cannot prevent the examination or copying of public records by contracting with nongovernmental bodies to perform governmental duties or functions. Iowa Code § 22.2(2). "In other words, a governmental body may not delegate or 'contract away' its duties or functions in order to avoid disclosure of what would otherwise be a public record." KMEG Television, Inc. v. Iowa State Bd. of Regents, 440 N.W.2d 382, 385 (Iowa 1989) (network bid proposals received by communications company pursuant to company's contract with state university for broadcast of sporting events are not public records because broadcasting sporting events is not a governmental function). But see Gannon v. Bd. of Regents, 692 N.W.2d 31, 44 (Iowa 2005) (overruling KMEG in part and holding that the Iowa State University Foundation "performs a government function by virtue of its contract with ISU. Therefore, its records are "public records" subject to examination")

The records of nongovernmental groups whose members include governmental officials are public if the records are held by governmental officials in their official capacity. Dubuque v. Dubuque Racing Ass'n, Ltd., 420 N.W.2d 450, 453 (Iowa 1988) (emphasis added) (finding that minutes of a board meeting of a non-profit corporation were public records belonging to the city because two of the board members were elected city officials and one of those officials stored those minutes in the city manager’s office).

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5. Multi-state or regional bodies

The records of multistate or regional bodies are public if the records are held by governmental officials in their official capacity. Dubuque v. Dubuque Racing Ass'n, Ltd., 420 N.W.2d 450, 453 (Iowa 1988) (emphasis added).

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6. Advisory boards and commissions, quasi-governmental entities

The records of advisory boards, commissions and quasi-governmental entities are public if the records are held by governmental officials in their official capacity. Dubuque v. Dubuque Racing Ass'n, Ltd., 420 N.W.2d 450, 453 (Iowa 1988) (emphasis added).

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7. Others

Records of public funds invested by private third-parties are public records. Iowa Code § 22.14.

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C. What records are and are not subject to the act?

1. What kinds of records are covered?

As a general rule, the records which are subject to the statute are those records which are "public." Iowa Code § 22.2(1) ("Every person shall have the right to examine and copy public records") (emphasis added).

Public records include: "[A]ll records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D, or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee of any of the foregoing." Iowa Code § 22.1(3)(a) (2017).

In 2005, the Iowa legislature expanded the definition of public records by adding: "all records relating to the investment of public funds including but not limited to investment policies, instructions, trading orders, or contracts, whether in the custody of the public body responsible for the public funds or a fiduciary or other third party." Iowa Code § 22.1(3)(b) (2017). See also Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 45 (Iowa 1999) (defining "private" in the absence of statutory definition).

Exceptions to this general rule are listed in Iowa Code 22.7, which contains categories of records that shall be kept confidential. When it is unclear whether a record under section 22.7(11) is subject to a privacy exemption, the courts will apply a fact specific balancing test. This four-part test weighs individual privacy interests against the public’s need to know by analyzing: (1) the public purpose of the party requesting the information; (2) whether the purpose could be accomplished without the disclosure of personal information; (3) the scope of the request; (4) whether alternative sources for obtaining the information exist; and (5) the gravity of the invasion of personal privacy.” Shannon v. Koehler, No. C 08-4059, 2010 WL 3943661, at *3 (N.D. Iowa Oct. 6, 2010) (citing DeLaMater v. Marion Civil Serv. Comm'n, 554 N.W.2d 875, 879 (Iowa 1996).

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2. What physical form of records are covered

The physical form of the record is immaterial. The statute applies to: "[A]ll records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium . . . ." Iowa Code § 22.1.

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3. Are certain records available for inspection but not copying?

Public records may be examined and copied. Iowa Code § 22.2(1). Examining public records includes the rights to copy, make photographs, and make photographic copies of the record. Iowa Code § 22.2(1). Certain documents, however, are exempted from the right to copy. This includes maps of mines, which may not be copied without the written consent of the operator or owner. 75-5-10 Op. Att’y Gen. 1, 1 (May 29, 1975).

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4. Telephone call logs

Law enforcement investigative reports and telephone records are confidential, but the “date, time, specific location and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding a crime or incident” are public unless “disclosure would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the safety of an individual.” Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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5. Electronic records

Public records include all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium. Iowa Code § 22.1(3); see United States v. Story Cty., 28 F. Supp. 3d 861, 871 (S.D. Iowa 2014) (noting there is no difference between cases that “were stored in electronic format as opposed to having been stored in hard copy format”).

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a. Can the requester choose a format for receiving records?

The right to copy a public record shall include the right to make photographs or photographic copies while the public record is in the possession of the custodian of the public record. Iowa Code § 22.2(1).

A government body shall not acquire any electronic data processing system for the storage, manipulation, or retrieval of public records that would impair the government body's ability to permit the examination of a public record and the copying of a public record in either written or electronic form. Iowa Code § 22.3A(2).

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b. Can the requester obtain a customized search of computer databases to fit particular needs

Probably, if the custodian can accommodate the request. Iowa Code § 22.3A(1)(a) provides: "'Access' means the instruction of, communication with, storage of data in, or retrieval of data from a computer." Access to a government database can be provided, restricted, or prohibited but generally “a public record shall not be withheld from the public because it is combined with data processing software.” Id. § 22.3A(2). The government shall bear the cost of separating the public record from the data processing software, but the requestor may be charged if they request the public record “be specially processed or produced in a format different from that in which the public record is readily accessible to the government body.” Id. § 22.3A(2)(c), 22.3A(2)(d).

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c. Does the existence of information in electronic format affect its openness?

No. Iowa Code § 22.3A(2) provides: "A government body may provide, restrict, or prohibit access to data processing software developed by the government body, regardless of whether the data processing software is separated or combined with a public record. A government body shall establish policies and procedures to provide access to public records which are combined with its data processing software. A public record shall not be withheld from the public because it is combined with data processing software. A government body shall not acquire any electronic data processing system for the storage, manipulation, or retrieval of public records that would impair the government body's ability to permit the examination of a public record and the copying of a public record in either written or electronic form." (emphasis added).

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d. Online dissemination

6. How is email treated?

E-mail is not specifically addressed. However, the public is permitted access to "data" and "'[d]ata' means a representation of information, knowledge, facts, concepts, or instructions that has been prepared or is being prepared in a formalized manner and has been processed, or is intended to be processed, in a computer. Data may be stored in any form, including but not limited to a printout, magnetic storage media, disk, compact disc, punched card, or as memory of a computer." Iowa Code § 22.3A(1)(d). This would appear to include e-mail. See also Diercks v. Main, 894 N.W.2d 12 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (interpreting a request for emails as it would a request for a physical record and finding the emails did not need to be produced to the public as they were due diligence work product).

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7. How are text messages and instant messages treated?

There is no specific statutory provision covering text messages or instant messages, and there are no reported cases.

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8. How are social media postings treated?

There is no specific statutory provision covering social media, and there are no reported cases.

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9. Computer software

"Data processing software" means an ordered set of instructions or statements that, when executed by a computer, causes the computer to process data, and includes any program or set of programs, procedures, or routines used to employ and control capabilities of computer hardware. As used in this paragraph "data processing software" includes but is not limited to an operating system, compiler, assembler, utility, library resource, maintenance routine, application, or computer networking program.  Iowa Code § 22.3A(1)(e).

“A government body may provide, restrict, or prohibit access to data processing software developed by the government body, regardless of whether the data processing software is separated or combined with a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.3A(2). “A public record shall not be withheld from the public because it is combined with data processing software. A government body shall not acquire any electronic data processing system for the storage, manipulation, or retrieval of public records that would impair the government body's ability to permit the examination of a public record and the copying of a public record in either written or electronic form.”  Id.

Data processing software will not be publicly available information where it is a trade secret, which is exempt as confidential under Iowa Code section 22.7. See Iowa Film Prod. Servs., 818 N.W.2d at 221-22; Simington v. Banwart, No. 09-1561, 2010 WL 2089348, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. May 26, 2010) (citing Brown v. Iowa Legislative Council, 490 N.W.2d 551, 553-54 (Iowa 1992)).

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D. Fee provisions or practices

1. Levels or limitations on fees

The lawful custodian may charge a reasonable fee for services rendered in connection with supervision of the records which are the subject of the request. Iowa Code § 22.3; Hackman v. Kolbet for New Hampton Municipal Light Plant, No. 16-2063, 2017 WL 3065168, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. July 19, 2017) (noting the act “authorizes the entity to charge a reasonable fee in order to execute an open records request”). The custodian may not relinquish control of the records to the requesting individual. 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 76 (April 6, 1981). Thus, fees for supervisory services may also be charged. Supervisor fees, must, however, be uniformly applied to all who request records. Id.

The lawful custodian must provide a suitable place for examination and copying. If it is impracticable to do such work in the offices of the custodian, the person requesting the records must pay the necessary expense of providing a place to work. Iowa Code § 22.3.

"If copy equipment is available at the office of the lawful custodian of any public records, the lawful custodian shall provide any person a reasonable number of copies of any public record in the custody of the office upon the payment of a fee. The fee for the copying service as determined by the lawful custodian shall not exceed the cost of providing the service." Id.

The provisions of § 22.3 generally contemplate reimbursement to a lawful custodian of public records for costs incurred in retrieving public records. The phrase "all expenses of such work" to are indicative of the legislature's intent that a lawful custodian has the authority to charge a fee to cover the costs of retrieving public records. Thus, access to public records does not necessarily mean "free" access. Rathmann v. Bd. of Dirs. of Davenport Cmty. Sch. Dist., 580 N.W.2d 773, 778-79 (Iowa 1998). A reasonable fee may include a reasonable retrieval fee, the actual fees for copying a record, and legal fees accumulated in determining information that is confidential versus information that is public. See id. at 779; Hackman, 2017 WL 3065168, at *2.

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2. Particular fee specifications or provisions

A custodian is allowed to charge a "reasonable fee" for "supervisory" services. Iowa Code § 22.3; Rathmann, 580 N.W.2d at 778-79; Hackman, 2017 WL 3065168, at *2. "The fee for the copying service as determined by the lawful custodian shall not exceed the cost of providing the service." Iowa Code § 22.3. A government body shall establish reasonable rates and procedures for the retrieval of specified records, which are not confidential records, stored in the data base upon the request of any person." Id.

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3. Provisions for fee waivers

There are no provisions for waiver of fees when disclosure would be in the public interest. However, the custodian need not charge for his or her services. Iowa Code § 22.3 ("The lawful custodian may charge a reasonable fee."). Charges which are assessed, however, must be uniformly applied to all who request records. 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 76 (April 6, 1981).

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4. Requirements or prohibitions regarding advance payment

The statute is silent on the subject of advance payment. It does provide, however, that the lawful custodian "may adopt . . . reasonable rules regarding such work" and that the custodian shall provide a reasonable number of copies "upon payment of a fee." Iowa Code § 22.3 (emphasis added). The freedom to impose reasonable fees probably includes the freedom to require payment in advance.

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5. Have agencies imposed prohibitive fees to discourage requesters?

The cost imposed for providing a copy of an open record "shall not exceed the cost of providing the service." Iowa Code § 22.3. Agencies have not, as a general rule, imposed prohibitive fees to discourage requests. For example, these departments of the State of Iowa, have made the following charges in the past:
a. Agriculture and Land Stewardship: 10 cents;
b. Commerce: 15 - 20 cents;
c. Corrections: No charge for the first copy;
d. Cultural Affairs: 10 cents ($1.00 minimum);
e. Elder Affairs: 5 - 10 cents;
f. Employment Services: No charge for copies of one's own file — $10.00 for a copy of a hearing tape;
g. General Services: 10 cents or hourly rate;
h. Human Rights: 10 cents;
i. Inspection and Appeals: 30 cents;
j. Justice: 15 cents plus $6.68/hour for services;
k. Management: 35 cents;
l. Personnel: 5 cents;
m. National Guard: 2 cents;
n. Public Health: 5 cents (first hour of service at no charge, $5.00 thereafter);
o. Public Safety: 15 cents (1 - 25 copies); 10 cents (25 - 100 copies); 5 cents (100 or more copies);
p. Revenue and Finance: $3.00 for copies of tax returns;
q. Transportation: 10 cents (8 1/2 x 11); 10 cents (8 1/2 x 14); 2 cents (copies from manual); $1.00/page (computer printouts); $2.70/15 minutes (research and/or supervision).

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6. How are fees for electronic records determined?

Governmental bodies can charge a reasonable fee for all “expenses of the work," which may include time spent retrieving, copying and supervising the retrieval or access to the records. Iowa Code § 22.3.

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E. Who enforces the act?

The rights and remedies provided by this section are in addition to any rights and remedies provided by § 17A.19. Any aggrieved person, any taxpayer to or citizen of the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or any county attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of this chapter in an action brought against the lawful custodian and any other persons who would be appropriate defendants under the circumstances. Iowa Code § 22.10(1). Suits to enforce Chapter 22 shall be brought in the district court for the county in which the lawful custodian has its principal place of business. Id.

"The provisions of this chapter and all rights of persons under this chapter may be enforced by mandamus or injunction, whether or not any other remedy is also available. In the alternative, rights under this chapter also may be enforced by an action for judicial review according to the provisions of the Iowa administrative procedure Act, chapter 17A, if the records involved are records of an "agency" as defined in that Act." Iowa Code § 22.5.

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1. Attorney General's role

The attorney general has statutory authority to seek judicial enforcement.

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2. Availability of an ombudsman

The office of the Ombudsman has statutory authority to "[i]nvestigate, on complaint or on the ombudsman's own motion, any administrative action of any agency, without regard to the finality of the administrative action, except that the ombudsman shall not investigate the complaint of an employee of an agency in regard to that employee's employment relationship with the agency." Iowa Code § 2C.9(1).
Under Chapter 2C, "'Agency' means all governmental entities, departments, boards, commissions, councils or institutions, and any officer, employee or member thereof acting or purporting to act in the exercise of official duties, but it does not include:
a. Any court or judge or appurtenant judicial staff.
b. The members, committees, or permanent or temporary staffs of the Iowa general assembly.
c. The governor of Iowa or the governor's personal staff.
d. Any instrumentality formed pursuant to an interstate compact and answerable to more than one state."
Iowa Code § 2C.1(2).
Thus, it appears that the Citizen's Aide has the statutory authority to investigate a complaint regarding actions taken with respect to the Open Records Law.

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3. Commission or agency enforcement

The Iowa Public Information Board was created in 2013 pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 23.  The Board investigates complaints alleging violation of Iowa Code Chapters 21 and 22 and seek resolution to those.  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.

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F. Are there sanctions for noncompliance?

Iowa Code § 22.6, which provided: “It shall be unlawful for any person to deny or refuse any citizen of Iowa any right under this chapter, or to cause any such right to be denied or refused. Any person knowingly violating or attempting to violate any provision of this chapter where no other penalty is provided shall be guilty of a simple misdemeanor,” was repealed by the Legislature in 2011.  Acts 2011 (84 Gen. Assemb.) Ch. 106, S.F. 289 § 16 (Iowa 2011).

Iowa Code § 22.10 governs civil enforcement.  That provision provides:

  1. The rights and remedies provided by this section are in addition to any rights and remedies provided by section 17A.19. Any aggrieved person, any taxpayer to or citizen of the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or any county attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of this chapter in an action brought against the lawful custodian and any other persons who would be appropriate defendants under the circumstances. Suits to enforce this chapter shall be brought in the district court for the county in which the lawful custodian has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 22.10(1).
  2. Once a party seeking judicial enforcement of this chapter demonstrates to the court that the defendant is subject to the requirements of this chapter, that the records in question are government records, and that the defendant refused to make those government records available for examination and copying by the plaintiff, the burden of going forward shall be on the defendant to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this chapter.
  3. Upon a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that a lawful custodian has violated any provision of this chapter, a court:

a. Shall issue an injunction punishable by civil contempt ordering the offending lawful custodian and other appropriate persons to comply with the requirements of this chapter in the case before it and, if appropriate, may order the lawful custodian and other appropriate persons to refrain for one year from any future violations of this chapter.

b. Shall assess the persons who participated in its violation damages in the amount of not more than five hundred dollars and not less than one hundred dollars. However, if a person knowingly participated in such a violation, damages shall be in the amount of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars and not less than one thousand dollars. These damages shall be paid by the court imposing them to the state of Iowa if the body in question is a state government body, or to the local government involved if the body in question is a local government body. A person found to have violated this chapter shall not be assessed such damages if that person proves that the person did any of the following:

(1) Voted against the action violating this chapter, refused to participate in the action violating this chapter, or engaged in reasonable efforts under the circumstances to resist or prevent the action in violation of this chapter.

(2) Had good reason to believe and in good faith believed facts which, if true, would have indicated compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

(3) Reasonably relied upon a decision of a court, a formal opinion of the attorney general, or the attorney for the government body, given in writing, or as memorialized in the minutes of the meeting at which a formal oral opinion was given, or an advisory opinion of the attorney general or the attorney for the government body, given in writing.

c. Shall order the payment of all costs and reasonable attorney fees, including appellate attorney fees, to any plaintiff successfully establishing a violation of this chapter in the action brought under this section. The costs and fees shall be paid by the particular persons who were assessed damages under paragraph "b" of this subsection. If no such persons exist because they have a lawful defense under that paragraph to the imposition of such damages, the costs and fees shall be paid to the successful plaintiff from the budget of the offending government body or its parent.

d. Shall issue an order removing a person from office if that person has engaged in a prior violation of this chapter for which damages were assessed against the person during the person's term.

4. Ignorance of the legal requirements of this chapter is not a defense to an enforcement proceeding brought under this section. A lawful custodian or its designee in doubt about the legality of allowing the examination or copying or refusing to allow the examination or copying of a government record is authorized to bring suit at the expense of that government body in the district court of the county of the lawful custodian's principal place of business, or to seek an opinion of the attorney general or the attorney for the lawful custodian, to ascertain the legality of any such action.

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G. Record-holder obligations

1. Processing records requests

There is no specific statutory provision covering processing requirements, and there are no reported cases.

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2. Proactive disclosure requirements

There is no specific statutory provision covering proactive disclosure requirements, and there are no reported cases.

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3. Records retention requirements

There is no specific statutory provision covering record retention requirements, and there are no reported cases.

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A. Exemptions in the open records statute

1. Character of exemptions

The statutory exemptions are specific. See Iowa Code § 22.7. Moreover, the district court may enjoin examination of specific records or a narrowly drawn class of records if examination would clearly not be in the public interest and the examination would result in substantial and irreparable injury to any person or persons. Iowa Code § 22.8(1). Inconvenience or embarrassment to officials or others is not sufficient to warrant grant of an injunction. Iowa Code § 22.8(3). Injunctions "restraining the examination of a narrowly drawn class of public records may be issued only if an injunction would be justified under this section for every member within the class of records involved if each of those members were considered separately." Iowa Code § 22.8(3). See generally Iowa R. Civ. P. 320-30 (discussing injunctions).

The exemptions are also discretionary. "The following public records shall be kept confidential, unless otherwise ordered by a court, by the lawful custodian of the records, or by another person duly authorized to release such information." Iowa Code § 22.7 (emphasis added). This discretion is in favor of broad public access and excemptions should be construed narrowly. Iowa Film Prod. Svcs., 818 N.w.2d at 219 (“Although we should not thwart legislative intent, the specific exemptions contained in freedom of information statutes are to be construed narrowly.” quoting Hall v. Broadlawns Med. Ctr., 811 N.W.2d 478, 485 (Iowa 2012); State v. Henderson, No. 01-0291, 2002 WL 987851, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. May 15, 2002) (“There is a liberal policy of access under chapter 22, and departures are to be made only under discrete circumstances.”).

The Iowa statute does not appear to be patterned after the federal statute. But when a federal provision is similar to a provision in the Iowa statute, federal court interpretations are helpful in construing the Iowa statute. Hall v. Broadlawns Med. Ctr., 811 N.W.2d 478, 483-84 (Iowa 2012) (analyzing two federal cases interpreting “the degree to which a statute protects confidentiality even though documents are in the hands of third parties); City of Riverdale v. Diercks, 806 N.W.2d 643, 658 (Iowa 2011) (agreeing with a federal court that discussed selective disclosure); Records Custodian, Atlantic Cmty. Sch. Dist., 818 N.W.2d at 238 (applying the balancing test applied by federal courts to balance “the public interests served by disclosure against the private interests in protecting privacy”).

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2. Discussion of each exemption

a. Personal information in records regarding a student, prospective student, or former student maintained, created, collected or assembled by or for a school corporation or educational institution maintaining such records. This subsection shall not be construed to prohibit a postsecondary education institution from disclosing to a parent or guardian information regarding a violation of a federal, state, or local law, or institutional rule or policy governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the child is under the age of twenty-one years and the institution determines that the student committed a disciplinary violation with respect to the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance regardless of whether that information is contained in the student's education records. This subsection shall not be construed to prohibit a school corporation or educational institution from transferring student records electronically to the department of education, an accredited nonpublic school, an attendance center, a school district, or an accredited postsecondary institution in accordance with section 256.9, subsection 48.  Iowa Code § 22.7(1).

(1) A student's name and address in public records in the custody of a public school is not, however, confidential. 80 Op. Att'y Gen. 720 (June 18, 1980). Cf. 20 U.S.C. § 1232g (school must allow parents opportunity to inform school they do not want this information released without prior consent). See also Iowa Code § 22.9 (provisions of Chapter 22 which would cause denial of federal funds are suspended to the extent necessary to prevent denial).

(2) "We believe a subpoena is a sufficient court order under section 22.7(1) to allow a party to obtain possession of records to allow a court an opportunity to assess their relevancy and materiality." Poole v. Hawkeye Area Cmty. Action Program, Inc., 666 N.W.2d 560 (Iowa 2003) (subpoena served on school district for student records in tenant action against landlord alleging exposure to lead poisoning).

(3) Under FERPA and consistent with U.S. Department of Education regulations, “educational records may be withheld in their entirety where the requester would otherwise know the identity of the referenced student[(s)] . . . even with redactions.” Press-Citizen Co. v. Univ. of Iowa, 817 N.W.2d 480, 492 (Iowa 2012).

(4) Information in confidential personnel records revealing gender, home address, or birth date is personal information which should be kept confidential under this section. Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 44 (Iowa 1999).

(5) Disciplinary information and job performance records are exempt from disclosure and qualify as personal information in confidential personnel records. Am. Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Iowa, Inc. v. Records Custodian, Atlantic Cmty. Sch. Dist., 818 N.W.2d 231, 232 (Iowa 2012); Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666, 670 (Iowa 1992).

(6) The amount of sick leave and vacation leave used by individual public employees is a matter of legitimate concern to the public and cannot be kept confidential. Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 44 (Iowa 1999).

(7) The following information relating to individuals who are officials, officers, or employees of government bodies that are public records:

(a) The name and compensation of an individual, including a written agreement establishing compensation or any other terms of employment;

(b) The dates the individual was employed by the government body;

(c) The positions held by the individual with the government body;

(d) The educational institutions attended by the individual, including any diplomas and degrees earned;

(e) The individual’s previous employers and dates of previous employment;

(f) The fact that the individual was discharged as the result of a final disciplinary action upon the exhaustion of all applicable contractual, legal, and statutory remedies.

Public Information Issues & Personnel Matters, Iowa Public Employment Board (Sept. 22, 2014), https://iowaperb.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/Public%20Information%20Issues%20%26%20Personnel%20Matters.pdf; City of Dubuque v. Telegraph Herald, Inc., 297 N.W.2d 523 (Iowa 1980) (stating personal information in confidential personnel records generally does not include information concerning the employee’s name, address, previous employers, education, training, and experience).

b. Hospital records, medical records, and professional counselor records of the condition, diagnosis, care, or treatment of a patient or former patient or a counselee or former counselee, including outpatient. However, confidential communications between a crime victim and the victim's counselor are not subject to disclosure except as provided in § 915.20A. However, the Iowa department of public health shall adopt rules which provide for the sharing of information among agencies and providers concerning the maternal and child health program including but not limited to the statewide child immunization information system, while maintaining an individual's confidentiality. Iowa Code § 22.7(2).

(1) "Outpatient," as used in § 22.7(2), means one who is "treated at a clinic or dispensary connected with a hospital who is not a hospital inmate." Head v. Colloton, 331 N.W.2d 870, 874 (Iowa 1983).

(2) The identity of a potential bone marrow donor is a hospital record of the condition, diagnosis, care or treatment of a patient or former patient within the meaning of this section. Head, 331 N.W.2d at 876.

(3) But, documents filed in the office of the governor which pertain to the involuntary sterilization of a county home resident were public and not confidential hospital records within the meaning of the exemption because they were not maintained by the governor as hospital or physician records. Howard v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 284 N.W.2d 289, 300 (Iowa 1979).

(4) Records pertaining to medical services, including the identity of doctors, nurses and hospitals receiving public funds for services performed, the number and kind of services performed, and statistical information about patients (so long as identity is not revealed) are not excluded from public examination. 78 Op. Att'y Gen. 677, 678 - 679 (Sept. 20, 1978). The term “hospital record,” as used in the statute, means a hospital’s medical record relating to a patient. Head, 331 N.W.2d at 875.

c. Trade secrets which are recognized and protected as such by law. Iowa Code § 22.7(3).

(1) "The custodian of such a record (computer program and data base), however, is required to keep it confidential if the record is a trade secret recognized and protected by law." Brown v. Iowa Legislative Council, 490 N.W.2d 551, 552 (Iowa 1992). In applying this exemption to disclosure, the courts use the definition for “trade secrets” found in Iowa’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Sysco Iowa, Inc. v. Univ. of Iowa, 889 N.W.2d 235, 237 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016). In order to be exempted from disclosure, there must be proof the information holds economic value—any information which protects owner’s competitive edge or advantage. US West Commc’ns, Inc. v. Office of Consumer Advocate, 498 N.W.2d 711, 714 (Iowa 1993).

(2) "Business information may also fall within the definition of a trade secret, including such matters as maintenance of data on customer lists and needs, source of supplies, confidential costs, price data and figures." US West Commc’ns Inc., 498 N.W.2d at 714.

(3) "A trade secret is a process or device for continuous use in the operation of a business." Basic Chems. Inc. v. Benson, 251 N.W.2d 220, 226 (Iowa 1977).

(4) Information concerning pre-arranged funeral plans which must be filed with the county attorney in the county where the plan is located pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 523A is not protected as a trade secret. 83 Op. Att'y Gen. 70, 71 (July 18, 1983).

(5) But note, "[T]here is nothing in section 22.7 that suggests the legislature intended to limit the discovery rights of litigants in cases involving governmental entities." Mediacom Iowa, L.L.C. v. Inc. City of Spencer, 682 N.W.2d 62, 69 (Iowa 2004) (cable company sued city and its utilities board for its actions in establishing a competing communications system and sought order compelling discovery of information concerning existing communications system).

(6) District court properly refused to enjoin the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) from releasing test results on a manufacturer's temporary traffic signal to its competitor because the manufacturer did not show that IDOT's report was a confidential public record under Iowa Code ch. 22 as a trade secret under Iowa Code § 22.7(3) or as a report that would give the competitor an advantage under § 22.7(6). O.M.J.C. Signal, Inc. v. Iowa DOT, 2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1645 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 17, 2009).

(7) Information which would give an advantage to competitor and serves no public purpose may be included in the exemption. Compare Sysco Iowa, Inc., 889 N.W.2d at 242 (finding Sysco’s contract with the state university was a trade secret that was exempt because it contained information that had “independent economic value” that would give an unfair advantage to competitors), with Iowa Film Prod. Svcs. v. Iowa Dep’t for Econ. Dev., 818 N.W.2d 207 (Iowa 2012) (finding that investor and budget figures for films set forth in the final budget expenditure were not subject to exemption from disclosure under the Open Records Act as there was a legitimate interest in public disclosure of the reports as the public had a right to know how funds in the form of tax credits to filmmakers were spent).

d. Records which represent and constitute the work product of an attorney, which are related to litigation or claim made by or against a public body. Iowa Code § 22.7(4).

(1) Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.503(3) provides in pertinent part that: "[A] party may obtain discovery of documents and tangible things otherwise discoverable . . . and prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or by or for that other party's representative (including his attorney . . .) only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials in the preparation of his case and that he is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means."  See also Diercks v. Malin, 894 N.W.2d 12, 23 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016).

e. Peace officers' investigative reports, except where disclosure is authorized elsewhere in this code. However, the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding a crime or incident shall not be kept confidential under this section, except in those unusual circumstances where disclosure would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the safety of an individual. Specific portions of electronic mail and telephone billing records may only be kept confidential under this subsection if the length of time prescribed for commencement of prosecution or the finding of an indictment or information under the statute of limitations applicable to the crime that is under investigation has not expired. Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

(1) Information about criminal activity which peace officers receive from third parties is confidential. State ex rel. Shanahan v. Iowa District Court, 356 N.W. 2d 523, 528 (Iowa 1984).

(2) "Daily logs" prepared at the direction of law enforcement agency heads are not protected under this section. 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 559, 561 (April 26, 1976).

(3) "Statements made by witnesses to peace officers investigating a motor vehicle accident to enable the officers to make their reports . . . [are public records]." Shannon By Shannon v. Hansen, 469 N.W.2d 412, 415 (Iowa 1991).

(4) But see, Hawk Eye v. Jackson, 521 N.W.2d 750 (Iowa 1994) (privilege protecting peace officers' investigative reports and communications made to public officers in official confidence is qualified, and official claiming privilege must show that public officer is being examined, communication was made in official confidence, and public interest would suffer by disclosure).

(5) State must show public interest would suffer from disclosure of criminal investigative files; concerns about what might happen are insufficient to prevent disclosure. State v. Henderson, No. 01-0295, 2002 WL 987851, at *2-3 (Iowa Ct. App. May 15, 2002).

(6) Summary judgment was properly granted to the State in a case relating to an open records request because video recordings, use of force reports, and pursuit reports were confidential and not subject to disclosure under Iowa Code § 22.7(5). The video recording was a report; moreover, the requested materials were investigatory and did not fall within the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts, and circumstances surrounding the crime exclusion. Neer v. State, 2011 Iowa App. LEXIS 154 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 23, 2011).

f. Reports to governmental agencies which, if released, would give advantage to competitors and serve no public purpose. Iowa Code § 22.7(6).

(1) Custodians of production data from individual mines are in the best positions to judge when revelation of the data would give advantage or serve no public purpose. 73 Op. Att'y Gen. 55, 56 (February 23, 1973). The agency in possession of the information makes the preliminary decision. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 224 (June 14, 1979).

(2) Past grant applications are not confidential even though they would give advantage to a competitor, because public funds were involved and public has interest in seeing how its money is spent. Ne. Council on Substance Abuse Inc. v. Iowa Dept. of Public Health, Div. of Substance Abuse, 513 N.W.2d 757, 760 (Iowa 1994).

(3) District court properly refused to enjoin the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) from releasing test results on a manufacturer's temporary traffic signal to its competitor because the manufacturer did not show that IDOT's report was a confidential public record under Iowa Code ch. 22 as a trade secret under Iowa Code § 22.7(3) or as a report that would give the competitor an advantage under § 22.7(6). O.M.J.C. Signal, Inc. v. Iowa DOT, 2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1645 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 17 2009).

(4) Investor and budget figures for films set forth in final budget expenditure reports filmmakers submitted seeking tax credits were not subject to exemption from disclosure because the state did not promise filmmakers confidentiality with respect to the reports and there was a legitimate interest in public disclosure of reports. Iowa Film Prod. Svcs. v. Iowa Dep’t of Econ. Dev., 818 N.W.2d 207 (Iowa 2012).

g. Appraisals or appraisal information concerning the sale or purchase of real or personal property for public purposes, prior to the execution of any contract for such sale or the submission of the appraisal to the property owner or other interest holders as provided in section 6B.45.  Iowa Code § 22.7(7).

h. Economic development authority information on an industrial prospect with which the authority is currently negotiating. Iowa Code § 22.7(8).

i. Criminal identification files of law enforcement agencies. However, records of current and prior arrests and criminal history data shall be public records. Iowa Code § 22.7(9).

(1) Disclosure of prosecution witnesses' criminal records in a criminal case (beyond conviction list) is prohibited by this section. State v. Anderson, 410 N.W.2d 231, 235-236 (Iowa 1987).

j. A claim for compensation and reimbursement for legal assistance and supporting documents submitted to the state public defender for payment from the indigent defense fund established in section 815.11, as provided in section 13B.4B. Iowa Code § 22.7(10).

k.a. Personal information in confidential personnel records of government bodies relating to identified or identifiable individuals who are officials, officers, or employees of the government bodies. However, the following information relating to such individuals contained in personnel records shall be public records:

(1) The name and compensation of the individual including any written agreement establishing compensation or any other terms of employment excluding any information otherwise excludable from public information pursuant to this section or any other applicable provision of law. For purposes of this paragraph, "compensation" means payment of, or agreement to pay, any money, thing of value, or financial benefit conferred in return for labor or services rendered by an official, officer, or employee plus the value of benefits conferred including but not limited to casualty, disability, life, or health insurance, other health or wellness benefits, vacation, holiday, and sick leave, severance payments, retirement benefits, and deferred compensation.

(2) The dates the individual was employed by the government body.

(3) The positions the individual holds or has held with the government body.

(4) The educational institutions attended by the individual, including any diplomas and degrees earned, and the names of the individual's previous employers, positions previously held, and dates of previous employment.

(5) The fact that the individual was discharged as the result of a final disciplinary action upon the exhaustion of all applicable contractual, legal, and statutory remedies.

b. Personal information in confidential personnel records of government bodies relating to student employees shall only be released pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1232g. Iowa Code § 22.7(11) (as amended in 2011).

(1) This section applies only to personal information in confidential personnel records. City of Dubuque v. Tel. Herald Inc., 297 N.W.2d 523, 526 (Iowa 1980). In determining whether information sought is personal information protected by right of privacy, balance public interest served by disclosure and private interest in protecting against invasion of privacy. Id. at 526-27, Applications for appointive city officer were not protected by this section. Id. at 527. But see Iowa Code § 22.7(18).

(2) Ordinarily, information which includes one's name, address, employer, education, training and experience is not considered "personal." City of Dubuque v. Telegraph Herald, Inc., 297 N.W.2d 523, (Iowa 1980); 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 3, 5 (January 19, 1981).

(3) Adjudicator decisions concerning termination of teacher contracts are protected by this section. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 115, 118 (Apr. 27, 1991).

(4) Lists of state employees participating in deferred compensation plans are public records, but extent of individual participation in plans is personal and confidential. 74 Op. Att'y Gen. 430, 433 (Feb. 27, 1974).

(5) This subsection has also been construed to make settlement agreements between public bodies and employees public records. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. Public Records v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666, 669 Iowa (1992) ("[T]he outstanding characteristic of the settlement agreement was the fact that public funds were being paid to settle a private dispute. We think the document was of the type the legislature designated for disclosure."); Doe v. Univ. of Iowa, No. 12-0357, 2013 WL 85781 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2013) (upholding Des Moines Independent Community School District and applying the balancing test in finding the settlement agreement between Doe and the University was not exempt). See also Iowa Code § 22.13 ("The settlement agreement and any required summary shall be a public record.”).

(6) Decision to enjoin the city from releasing city employees' addresses, birth dates and gender affirmed. Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 48 (Iowa 1999).

(7) Compensation allocated to and used by individual public employees, whether for salary, sick leave or vacation, is a matter of legitimate concern to the public. So long as the information disclosed does not reveal personal medical conditions or professional evaluations, the public has the right to examine it. Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 48 (Iowa 1999).

(8) The court has also found that disciplinary records are exempt from disclosure and the balancing test, although it was applied here, is not necessary. Records Custodian, Atlantic Cmty. Sch. Dist., 818 N.W.2d at 236. Similarly, other job performance records are exempt from disclosure if the information is itself a confidential record. State v. Garrison, No. 04-0141, 2006 WL 138280, at *18-19 (Iowa 2006) (finding documents relating to the investigation and suspension of a Department of Criminal Investigation Agent who had worked the defendant’s murder case were exempt from public disclosure and contained no exculpatory information that should have been disclosed).

l. Financial statements submitted to the department of agriculture and land stewardship pursuant to chapter 203 or chapter 203C, by or on behalf of a licensed grain dealer or warehouse operator or by an applicant for a grain dealer license or warehouse license. Iowa Code § 22.7(12).

m. The records of a library which, by themselves or when examined with other public records, would reveal the identity of the library patron checking out or requesting an item or information from the library. The records shall be released to a criminal or juvenile justice agency only pursuant to an investigation of a particular person or organization suspected of committing a known crime. The records shall be released only upon a judicial determination that a rational connection exists between the requested release of information and a legitimate end and that the need for the information is cogent and compelling. Iowa Code § 22.7(13).

(1) The requirements of particularity and the showing of a rational connection and need were added by amendment in 1984 to overcome the holding of the court in Brown v. Johnston, 328 N.W.2d 510 (Iowa 1983), allowing a county attorney access to library records through the vehicle of a "county attorney's subpoena" issued pursuant to Iowa R. Crim. P. 5(6).

n. The material of a library, museum or archive which has been contributed by a private person to the extent of any limitation that is a condition of the contribution. Iowa Code § 22.7(14).

o. Information concerning the procedures to be used to control disturbances at adult correctional institutions. Such information shall also be exempt from public inspection under § 17A.3. As used in this subsection disturbance means a riot or a condition that can reasonably be expected to cause a riot. Iowa Code § 22.7(15).

p. Information in a report to the Iowa department of public health, to a local board of health, or to a local health department, which identifies a person infected with a reportable disease. Iowa Code § 22.7(16).

(1) The list of "reportable diseases" is found at Iowa Admin. Code § 641-1.3 (Appendix A).

q. Records of identity of owners of public bonds or obligations maintained as provided in § 76.10 or by the issuer of the public bonds or obligations. However, the issuer of the public bonds or obligations and a state or federal agency shall have the right of access to the records. Iowa Code § 22.7(17).

(1) See also Iowa Code § 76.11, allowing access by state agencies.

r. Communications not required by law, rule, procedure, or contract that are made to a government body or to any of its employees by identified persons outside of government, to the extent that the government body receiving those communications from such persons outside of government could reasonably believe that those persons would be discouraged from making them to that government body if they were available for general public examination. As used in this subsection, "persons outside of government" does not include persons or employees of persons who are communicating with respect to a consulting or contractual relationship with a government body or who are communicating with a government body with whom an arrangement for compensation exists. Notwithstanding this provision:

a. The communication is a public record to the extent that the person outside of government making that communication consents to its treatment as a public record.

b. Information contained in the communication is a public record to the extent that it can be disclosed without directly or indirectly indicating the identity of the person outside of government making it or enabling others to ascertain the identity of that person.

c. Information contained in the communication is a public record to the extent that it indicates the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the occurrence of a crime or other illegal act, except to the extent that its disclosure would plainly and seriously jeopardize a continuing investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the safety of any person. In any action challenging the failure of the lawful custodian to disclose any particular information of the kind enumerated in this paragraph, the burden of proof is on the lawful custodian to demonstrate that the disclosure of that information would jeopardize such an investigation or would pose such a clear and present danger. Iowa Code § 22.7(18).

(1) This section was added by amendment in 1984, subsequent to (and presumably in response to) the holding of the court in City of Dubuque v. Telegraph Herald Inc., 297 N.W.2d 523 (Iowa 1980).

(2) The purpose of this section, as amended, is "to permit public agencies to keep confidential a broad category of useful incoming communications which might not be forthcoming if subject to public disclosure." City of Sioux City v. Press Club, 421 N.W.2d 895, 898 (Iowa 1988).

(3) There are three exceptions to this rule of confidentiality: (a) consent of person making communication; (b) information which does not disclose, or allow others to ascertain the identity of the person making the communication; and (c) information indicating the date, time, specific location and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the occurrence of a crime (unless disclosure would jeopardize a continuing investigation or endanger an individual).

(4) Pursuant to the provisions of this section, employment applications for appointive city office, disclosure of which is not authorized by the applicants, may be maintained with confidentiality by the lawful custodian. City of Sioux City v. Press Club, 421 N.W.2d at 899.

(5) Documents which can be redacted to protect the identity of outside sources must be made available. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. Public Records v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666, 671 (Iowa 1992).

(6) Grant of summary judgment to a school district and its board in an action brought by a mother, on behalf of her minor child, for disclosing a sexual relationship between the minor and a school coach was affirmed because Iowa Code § 22.7(18) authorized disclosure of the immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the occurrence of a crime or illegal act. V.H. v. Hampton-Dumont Cmty. Sch. Dist., 2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1721 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 30, 2009)

s. Examinations, including but not limited to cognitive and psychological examinations for law enforcement officer candidates administered by or on behalf of a governmental body, to the extent that their disclosure could reasonably be believed by the custodian to interfere with the accomplishment of the objectives for which they are administered. Iowa Code § 22.7(19).

(1) See also, Iowa Code Chapter 228, limiting the circumstances under which mental health information may be disclosed.

(2) This exemption is intended to protect the integrity of the examination process. DeLaMater v. Marion Civil Svc. Comm’n, 554 N.W.2d 875, 881 (Iowa 1996) (finding § 22.7(19) did not apply to prohibit the disclosure of examinees’ raw scores on each component of the test were there was no indication of the content of the questions). The court may allow a government body to redact the names of some of names of the individuals achieving the disclosed raw scores where the “public purpose may be satisfied without linking the scores to a particular candidate.”  Id. at 882.

t. Information concerning the nature and location of any archaeological resource or site if, in the opinion of the state archaeologist, disclosure of the information will result in unreasonable risk of damage to or loss of the resource or site where the resource is located. This subsection shall not be construed to interfere with the responsibilities of the federal government or the state historic preservation officer pertaining to access, disclosure, and use of archaeological site records. Iowa Code § 22.7(20).

u. Information concerning the nature and location of any ecologically sensitive resource or site if, in the opinion of the director of the department of natural resources after consultation with the state ecologist, disclosure of the information will result in unreasonable risk of damage to or loss of the resource or site where the resource is located. This subsection shall not be construed to interfere with the responsibilities of the federal government or the director of the department of natural resources and the state ecologist pertaining to access, disclosure, and use of the ecologically sensitive site records. Iowa Code § 22.7(21).

v. Reports or recommendations of the Iowa insurance guaranty association filed or made pursuant to § 515B.10, subsection 1, paragraph "a", subparagraph (2). Iowa Code § 22.7(22).

w. Information or reports collected or submitted pursuant to § 508C.12, subsections 3 and 5, and § 508C.13, subsection 2, except to the extent that release is permitted under those sections. Iowa Code § 22.7(23).

x. Financial information, which if released would give advantage to competitors and serve no public purpose, relating to commercial operations conducted or intended to be conducted by a person submitting records containing the information to the department of agriculture and land stewardship for the purpose of obtaining assistance in business planning. Iowa Code § 22.7(25).

y. Applications, investigation reports, and case records of persons applying for county general assistance pursuant to § 252.25. Iowa Code § 22.7(26).

z. Marketing and advertising budget and strategy of a nonprofit corporation which is subject to this chapter. However, this exemption does not apply to salaries or benefits of employees who are employed by the nonprofit corporation to handle the marketing and advertising responsibilities. Iowa Code § 22.7(27).

aa. The information contained in records of the centralized employee registry created in chapter 252G, except to the extent that disclosure is authorized pursuant to chapter 252G. Iowa Code § 22.7(28).

(1) Section 22.7(28) protects social security numbers from disclosure. Schmit v. Iowa Machine Shed Co., No. 05-1927, 2006 WL 2872944, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 11, 2006).

bb. Records and information obtained or held by independent special counsel during the course of an investigation conducted pursuant to § 68B.31A. Information that is disclosed to a legislative ethics committee subsequent to a determination of probable cause by independent special counsel and made pursuant to § 68B.31 is not a confidential record unless otherwise provided by law. Iowa Code § 22.7(29).

cc. Information contained in a declaration of paternity completed and filed with the state registrar of vital statistics pursuant to § 144.12A, except to the extent that the information may be provided to persons in accordance with § 144.12A. Iowa Code § 22.7(30).

dd. Memoranda, work products, and case files of a mediator and all other confidential communications in the possession of a mediator, as provided in chapters 86 and 216. Information in these confidential communications is subject to disclosure only as provided in § § 86.44 and 216.15B, notwithstanding any other contrary provision of this chapter. Iowa Code § 22.7(31).

ee. Social security numbers of the owners of unclaimed property reported to the treasurer of state pursuant to section 556.11, subsection 2, included on claim forms filed with the treasurer of state pursuant to section 556.19, included in outdated warrant reports received by the treasurer of state pursuant to section 556.2C, or stored in record systems maintained by the treasurer of state for purposes of administering chapter 556, or social security numbers of payees included on state warrants included in records systems maintained by the department of administrative services for the purpose of documenting and tracking outdated warrants pursuant to section 556.2C. Iowa Code § 22.7(32).

ff. Data processing software, as defined in § 22.3A, which is developed by a government body or developed by a nongovernment body and used by a government body pursuant to a contractual relationship with the nongovernment body. Iowa Code § 22.7(33).

gg. A record required under the Iowa financial transaction reporting Act listed in § 529.2, subsection 9. Iowa Code § 22.7(34).

hh. Records of the Iowa department of public health pertaining to participants in the gambling treatment program except as otherwise provided in this chapter. Iowa Code § 22.7(35).

ii. Records of a law enforcement agency or the state department of transportation regarding the issuance of a driver's license under § 321.189A. Iowa Code § 22.7(36).

jj. Mediation communications as defined in § 679C.102, except written mediation agreements that resulted from a mediation which are signed on behalf of a governing body. However, confidentiality of mediation communications resulting from mediation conducted pursuant to chapter 216 shall be governed by chapter 216. Iowa Code § 22.7(37).

(1) A district court can seal court records if the parties introduced documents from an earlier mediation. Estate of Cox by Cox v. Dunakey & Klatt, P.C., 893 N.W.2d 295, 305 (Iowa 2017).

(2) Section 679C.102 defines “mediation communication” as any statement, written or oral, “that occurs during a mediation or is made for purposes of considering, conducting, participating in, initiating, continuing, or reconvening a mediation.” Id. (citing Iowa Code § 679C.102 (2017)).

kk. a. Records containing information that would disclose, or might lead to the disclosure of, private keys used in a digital an electronic signature or other similar technologies as provided in chapter 554D.

b. Records which if disclosed might jeopardize the security of an electronic transaction pursuant to chapter 554D. Iowa Code § 22.7(38).

ll. Information revealing the identity of a packer or a person who sells livestock to a packer as reported to the department of agriculture and land stewardship pursuant to § 202A.2. Iowa Code § 22.7(39).

mm. The portion of a record request that contains an internet protocol number which identifies the computer from which a person requests a record, whether the person using such computer makes the request through the IowAccess network or directly to a lawful custodian. However, such record may be released with the express written consent of the person requesting the record. Iowa Code § 22.7(40).

nn. a. Medical examiner records and reports, including preliminary reports, investigative reports, and autopsy reports.

b. Notwithstanding paragraph “a”, the following shall be released as follows:

(1) Medical examiner-authored records and reports, including preliminary reports, investigative reports, and autopsy reports, shall be released to a law enforcement agency that is investigating the death, upon the request of the law enforcement agency.

(2) Preliminary reports of investigations by the medical examiner and autopsy reports for a decedent by whom an anatomical gift was made in accordance with chapter 142C shall be released to a procurement organization as defined in section 142C.2, upon the request of such procurement organization, unless such disclosure would jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the public safety or the safety of an individual.

(3) Autopsy reports shall be released to the decedent's immediate next of kin, upon the request of the decedent's immediate next of kin, unless disclosure to the decedent's immediate next of kin would jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the public safety or the safety of an individual.

c. Information regarding the cause and manner of death shall not be kept confidential under this subsection, unless disclosure would jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the public safety or the safety of an individual. Iowa Code § 22.7(41).

(1) The Iowa Supreme Court refused to disclose an autopsy report to a decedent’s mother, determining that the “language is specific and clear that autopsy reports are exempt from disclosure except to ‘the decedent's immediate next of kin,’” which would be the decedent’s estranged wife or children, not his mother.  Simington v. Banwart, 786 N.W.2d 520 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010).

oo. Information obtained by the commissioner of insurance in the course of an investigation as provided in § 523C.23. Iowa Code § 22.7(42).

pp. Information obtained by the commissioner of insurance pursuant to § 502.607. Iowa Code § 22.7(43).

qq. Information provided to the court and state public defender pursuant to section 13B.4, subsection 5; section 814.11, subsection 7; or section 815.10, subsection 5.  Iowa Code §22.7(44).

rr. The critical asset protection plan or any part of the plan prepared pursuant to section 29C.8 and any information held by the department of homeland security and emergency management that was supplied to the department by a public or private agency or organization and used in the development of the critical asset protection plan to include, but not be limited to, surveys, lists, maps, or photographs. Communications and asset information not required by law, rule, or procedure that are provided to the director by persons outside of government and for which the director has signed a nondisclosure agreement are exempt from public disclosures. The department of homeland security and emergency management may provide all or part of the critical asset plan to federal, state, or local governmental agencies which have emergency planning or response functions if the director is satisfied that the need to know and intended use are reasonable. An agency receiving critical asset protection plan information from the department shall not redisseminate the information without prior approval of the director. Iowa Code § 22.7(45).

ss. Military personnel records recorded by the county recorder pursuant to section 331.608.  Iowa Code § 22.7(46).

tt. A report regarding interest held in agricultural land required to be filed pursuant to chapter 10B.  Iowa Code § 22.7(47).

uu. Sex offender registry records under chapter 692A, except as provided in § 692A.121. Iowa Code § 22.7(48).

vv. Confidential information, as defined in § 86.45, subsection 1, filed with the workers' compensation commissioner. Iowa Code § 22.7(49).

ww. Information and records concerning physical infrastructure, cyber security, critical infrastructure, security procedures, or emergency preparedness developed, maintained, or held by a government body for the protection of life or property, if disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize such life or property.

a. Such information includes but is not limited to information directly related to vulnerability assessments; information contained in records relating to security measures such as security and response plans, security codes and combinations, passwords, restricted area passes, keys, and security or response procedures; emergency response protocols; and information contained in records that if disclosed would significantly increase the vulnerability of critical physical systems or infrastructures of a government body to attack.

b. For purposes of this subsection, “cyber security information and records” include but are not limited to information and records relating to cyber security defenses, threats, attacks, or general attempts to attack cyber system operations.  Iowa Code § 22.7(50).

xx. The information contained in the information program established in section 124.551, except to the extent that disclosure is authorized pursuant to section 124.553.  Iowa Code § 22.7(51).

yy. a. The following records relating to a charitable donation made to a foundation acting solely for the support of an institution governed by the state board of regents, to the board of the Iowa state fair foundation when the record relates to a gift or deposit in or expenditure from the Iowa state fairgrounds trust fund as provided in section 173.22A, to a foundation acting solely for the support of an institution governed by chapter 260C, to a private foundation as defined in section 509 of the Internal Revenue Code organized for the support of a government body, or to an endow Iowa qualified community foundation, as defined in section 15E.303, organized for the support of a government body:

(1) Portions of records that disclose a donor's or prospective donor's personal, financial, estate planning, or gift planning matters.

(2) Records received from a donor or prospective donor regarding such donor's prospective gift or pledge.

(3) Records containing information about a donor or a prospective donor in regard to the appropriateness of the solicitation and dollar amount of the gift or pledge.

(4) Portions of records that identify a prospective donor and that provide information on the appropriateness of the solicitation, the form of the gift or dollar amount requested by the solicitor, and the name of the solicitor.

(5) Portions of records disclosing the identity of a donor or prospective donor, including the specific form of gift or pledge that could identify a donor or prospective donor, directly or indirectly, when such donor has requested anonymity in connection with the gift or pledge. This subparagraph does not apply to a gift or pledge from a publicly held business corporation.

b. The confidential records described in paragraph "a", subparagraphs (1) through (5), shall not be construed to make confidential those portions of records disclosing any of the following:

(1) The amount and date of the donation.

(2) Any donor-designated use or purpose of the donation.

(3) Any other donor-imposed restrictions on the use of the donation.

(4) When a pledge or donation is made expressly conditioned on receipt by the donor, or any person related to the donor by blood or marriage within the third degree of consanguinity, of any privilege, benefit, employment, program admission, or other special consideration from the government body, a description of any and all such consideration offered or given in exchange for the pledge or donation.

c. Except as provided in paragraphs "a" and "b", portions of records relating to the receipt, holding, and disbursement of gifts made for the benefit of regents institutions and made through foundations established for support of regents institutions, including but not limited to written fund-raising policies and documents evidencing fund-raising practices, shall be subject to this chapter.

d. This subsection does not apply to a report filed with the Iowa ethics and campaign disclosure board pursuant to section 8.7.  Iowa Code § 22.7(52).

zz. Information obtained and prepared by the commissioner of insurance pursuant to section 507.14.  Iowa Code § 22.7(53).

aaa. Information obtained and prepared by the commissioner of insurance pursuant to section 507E.5.  Iowa Code § 22.7(54).

bbb. An intelligence assessment and intelligence data under chapter 692, except as provided in section 692.8A.  Iowa Code § 22.7(55).

ccc. Individually identifiable client information contained in the records of the state database created as a homeless management information system pursuant to standards developed by the United States department of housing and urban development and utilized by the Iowa department of economic development.  Iowa Code § 22.7(56).

ddd. The following information contained in the records of any governmental body relating to any form of housing assistance:

a. An applicant's social security number.

b. An applicant's personal financial history.

c. An applicant's personal medical history or records.

d. An applicant's current residential address when the applicant has been granted or has made application for a civil or criminal restraining order for the personal protection of the applicant or a member of the applicant's household.  Iowa Code § 22.7(57).

eee. Information filed with the commissioner of insurance pursuant to sections 523A.204 and 523A.502A.  Iowa Code §.22.7(58).

fff. The information provided in any report, record, claim, or other document submitted to the treasurer of state pursuant to chapter 556 concerning unclaimed or abandoned property, except the name and last known address of each person appearing to be entitled to unclaimed or abandoned property paid or delivered to the treasurer of state pursuant to that chapter.  Iowa Code § 22.7(59).

ggg. Information in a record that would permit a governmental body subject to chapter 21 to hold a closed session pursuant to section 21.5 in order to avoid public disclosure of that information, until such time as final action is taken on the subject matter of that information. Any portion of such a record not subject to this subsection, or not otherwise confidential, shall be made available to the public. After the governmental body has taken final action on the subject matter pertaining to the information in that record, this subsection shall no longer apply. This subsection shall not apply more than ninety days after a record is known to exist by the governmental body, unless it is not possible for the governmental body to take final action within ninety days. The burden shall be on the governmental body to prove that final action was not possible within the ninety-day period.  Iowa Code § 22.7(60).

(1) The court in Hall v. Broadlawns Medical Center interpreted section 22.7(61) when it included the wording that is now section 22.7(60). The internal audit of a hospital pharmacy department is not exempt from public disclosure when the ninety-day period has lapsed. Hall v. Broadlawns Med. Ctr., 811 N.W.2d 478, 485 (Iowa 2012).

hhh. Records of the department on aging pertaining to clients served by the office of substitute decision maker.  Iowa Code § 22.7(61).

iii. Records maintained by the department on aging or office of long-term care ombudsman that disclose the identity of a complainant, resident, tenant, or individual receiving services provided by the department on aging, an area agency on aging, or the office of long-term care ombudsman, unless disclosure is otherwise allowed under section 231.42, subsection 12, paragraph “a.” Iowa Code § 22.7(62).

jjj. Information obtained by the superintendent of credit unions in connection with a complaint response process as provided in section 533.501, subsection 3.  Iowa Code § 22.7(63).

kkk. Information obtained by the commissioner of insurance in the course of an examination of a cemetery as provided in section 523I.213A, subsection 7.  Iowa Code § 22.7(64).

lll. Tentative, preliminary, draft, speculative, or research material, prior to its completion for the purpose for which it is intended and in a form prior to the form in which it is submitted for use or used in the actual formulation, recommendation, adoption, or execution of any official policy or action by a public official authorized to make such decisions for the governmental body or the government body. This subsection shall not apply to public records that are actually submitted for use or are used in the formulation, recommendation, adoption, or execution of any official policy or action of a governmental body or a government body by a public official authorized to adopt or execute official policy for the governmental body or the government body. Iowa Code § 22.7(65).

mmm. Personal information contained on electronic driver's license or nonoperator's identification card records that is provided by the licensee or card holder to the department of transportation for use by law enforcement, first responders, emergency medical service providers, and other medical personnel responding to or assisting with an emergency. Iowa Code § 22.7(66).

nnn. Electronic mail addresses of individuals or phone numbers of individuals, and personally identifiable information about those individuals, collected by state departments and agencies for the sole purpose of disseminating emergency or routine information and notices through electronic communications that are not prepared for a specific recipient. Iowa Code § 22.7(67).

ooo. Information required to be provided by a disclosing entity pursuant to 42 C.F.R. §455.104, pertaining to an individual with an ownership or control interest who is an officer or director of a nonprofit corporation. Iowa Code § 22.7(68).

ppp. The evidence of public employee support for the certification, retention and recertification, or decertification of an employee organization as defined in section 20.3 that is submitted to the public employment relations board as provided in section 20.14 or 20.15. Iowa Code § 22.7(69).

qqq. Information indicating whether a public employee voted in a certification, retention and recertification, or decertification election held pursuant to section 20.15 or how the employee voted on any question on a ballot in such an election. Iowa Code § 22.7(70).

rrr. Information and records related to cyber security information or critical infrastructure, the disclosure of which may expose or create vulnerability to critical infrastructure systems, held by the utilities board of the department of commerce or the department of homeland security and emergency management for purposes relating to the safeguarding of telecommunications, electric, water, sanitary sewage, storm water drainage, energy, hazardous liquid, natural gas, or other critical infrastructure systems. For purposes of this subsection, “cyber security information” includes but is not limited to information relating to cyber security defenses, threats, attacks, or general attempts to attack cyber system operations. Iowa Code § 22.7(70).

sss. The voter verification number, as defined in section 53.2, subsection 4, paragraph “c”, that is assigned to a voter and maintained and updated in the statewide voter registration system. Iowa Code § 22.7(70).

ttt. The personal identification number assigned by the state commissioner of elections pursuant to section 48A.10A, subsection 1. Iowa Code § 22.7(71).

uuu. The voter verification number, as defined in section 53.2, subsection 4, paragraph “c”, that is assigned to a voter and maintained and updated in the statewide voter registration system.  Iowa Code § 22.7(72).

vvv. The personal identification number assigned by the state commissioner of elections pursuant to section 48A.10A, subsection 1. Iowa Code § 22.7(73).

Compare

B. Other statutory exclusions

  1. Accident Reports.

If the request is filed by the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, only the identity and address of person involved in accident is available; and only to persons involved in the accident, their insurers, agents and attorneys. Iowa Code§ 321.271.  If the request is filed by law enforcement officers, it is available to any party to an accident, the party's insurer, agent, attorney or the attorney general upon written request and payment of $4 fee. Iowa Code § 321.271; 70 Op. Att'y Gen. 420, 421 (February 2, 1970).

  1. Architects.

The architectural examining board shall not disclose “[t]he contents of the examination” or “[t]he examination results other than final score except for information about the results of an examination which is given to the person who took the examination.” Iowa Code § 544A.27.

  1. Arrest Warrants.

Information filed with the court for the purpose of securing an arrest warrant is confidential until the arrest is made and the warrant is returned. “However, during the period of confidentiality in subsection 1, the information in the record may be disseminated, without court order, during the course of official duties to the following persons:

  1. A peace officer, or any other employee of a law enforcement agency if allowed access pursuant to section 692.14and if authorized in writing by the head of the agency.
  2. An employee of the county attorney's office.
  3. A judicial officer or other court employees.
  4. An employee of the department of corrections or judicial district department of correctional services, if authorized by the director of the department of corrections.” Iowa Code § 804.29.
  5. Arson Investigation Reports.

Authorized agencies or insurance companies receiving information relevant to arson prosecution must hold that information in confidence until the information is released pursuant to a criminal or civil proceeding. Iowa Code § 100A.3(1).

  1. Attorneys.

“A practicing attorney . . . who obtains information by reason of the person's employment . . .  shall not be allowed, in giving testimony, to disclose any confidential communication properly entrusted to the person in the person's professional capacity, and necessary and proper to enable the person to discharge the functions of the person's office according to the usual course of practice or discipline.” Iowa Code § 622.10.

Members of the board of law examiners may not disclose information relating to the criminal history or prior misconduct of an applicant, examination contents, or examination results other than final score (except to the person who took the examination). Iowa Code § 602.10141.

  1. Bank Examinations and Records.

“The superintendent, members of the state banking council, general counsel, examiners, or other employees of the banking division shall not disclose, in any manner, to any person other than the person examined and those regulatory agencies referred to in section 524.217, subsection 2, any information relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of any state bank, persons subject to the provisions of chapter 533A, 533C, 536, or 536A, any affiliate of any state bank, or an affiliate of a person subject to the provisions of chapter 533A, 533C, 536, or 536A, except when ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction and then only in those instances referred to in section 524.215, subsection 2, paragraphs ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘e’, and ‘f.’” Iowa Code § 524.212. See also 75 Op. Att'y Gen. 370, 371 (January 4, 1974) (Superintendent may respond to subpoena in proceeding in which FDIC is party).

"All records of the department of banking shall be public records subject to the provisions of chapter 22 [open records law], except that all papers, documents, reports, reports of examinations and other writings relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of any state bank or other person by the superintendent pursuant to the laws of this state shall not be public records and shall not be open for examination or copying by the public or for examination or publication by the news media. The superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistants or examiners shall not be subpoenaed in any cause or proceeding to give testimony concerning information relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of any state bank or other person by the superintendent pursuant to the laws of this state, nor shall the records of the banking division which relate specifically to the supervision and regulation of any such state bank or other such person be offered in evidence in any court or subject to subpoena by any party except, where relevant:

  1. In such actions or proceedings as are brought by the superintendent;
  2. In any matter in which an interested and proper party seeks review of a decision of the superintendent;
  3. In any action or proceeding which arises out of the criminal provisions of the laws of this state or the United States;
  4. In any action brought as a shareholders derivative suit against a state bank or other entity regulated by the superintendent.
  5. In an action brought to recover moneys for a loss in connection with an indemnity bond which was a result of embezzlement, misappropriation, or misuse of state bank funds by a director, officer, or employee of the state bank.

 

  1. In an action brought to recover moneys for a loss in connection with an indemnity bond which was a result of embezzlement, misappropriation, or misuse of funds, belonging to an entity regulated by the superintendent, by a director, officer, or employee of the entity.

Iowa Code § 524.215.

  1. Department of Revenue and Finance.

No bank may be required to divulge to the director information about the property of a person when that information was obtained as a part of a business transaction with the bank, in the ordinary course of bank business, and the information was necessary and proper to the discharge of the duty of the bank. Iowa Code § 421.17(7).

It is unlawful for the director or others to divulge information concerning the business affairs, income, etc., of any person examined pursuant to Chapter 422 (Property Relief Act). Iowa Code § 422.72(1).

Disclosure that a named individual has filed a return is not prohibited. 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 679 (July 27, 1976). See also Iowa Code § 422.20 (applying to present and former state employees); and 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 302, 305 (November 25, 1981) (purpose of confidentiality "to promote accurate and complete reporting of information to the agency by insuring to the taxpayer that the agency will not disclose any secrets.").

  1. Congenital and Inherited Disorders

“The center for congenital and inherited disorders and the department shall maintain the confidentiality of any identifying information collected, used, or maintained pursuant to this chapter in accordance with section 22.7, subsection 2.” Iowa Code § 136A.7 (2017).

  1. Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Members of the board may not disclose information relating to the criminal history or prior misconduct of an applicant, examination contents, or examination results other than final score except to the person who took the examination). Iowa Code § 169.6.

  1. Bondholders.

The identity of public bondholders is confidential and entitled to protection under Iowa Code § 22.7(17). Iowa Code § 76.11.

  1. Child Abuse Information.

Information is available only to health care practitioners attending a victim, department of human services investigators, certain law enforcement officers, juvenile or district courts, agencies responsible for care of the child, those doing bona fide research (but without identifying information absent consent of guardian), persons referred to in the reports, department personnel where necessary, the mandatory reporter, a multidisciplinary team where appropriate, licensing authorities and the department of public safety. Iowa Code § 235A.15(2).

  1. Child Day Care Facilities.

Information relevant to individuals in a child day care facility is, without written consent or court inquiry, confidential. Iowa Code § 237A.7.

  1. Child Foster Care.

Information concerning agencies and persons cared for by agencies is available only to designated governmental agencies and to such persons as may be in the interest of the child. Iowa Code § 238.24. Statistical analysis of data in such manner as to protect confidentiality is permissible. Id.

  1. Child Placing Agencies.

Information concerning agencies and persons cared for by agencies is available only to designated governmental agencies and to such persons as may be in the interest of the child. Iowa Code § 238.24.

  1. Citizens’ Aide.

”The ombudsman may request and receive from each agency assistance and information as necessary in the performance of the duties of the office.” Iowa Code § 2C.9. Confidential documents provided to the ombudsman by other agencies will maintain their confidential status. Id.

Citizens' aide is statutorily authorized to access investigation files of licensing boards, which are otherwise deemed privileged and confidential, in order to fulfill its role as watchdog for state administrative agencies, citizens' aide must have widespread access to agency's documentation, and licensing board's investigative files maintain their confidential status even after being obtained by citizens' aide. Citzens’ Aide/ Ombudsman v. Miller, 543 N.W.2d 899 (Iowa 1996).

  1. Clergy.

Clergy may not divulge, in giving testimony, confidential communication properly entrusted in professional capacity where necessary and proper to enable clergy to discharge functions of office. Iowa Code § 622.10. The person in whose favor the prohibition is made may waive the confidence. Id.

  1. Coal Exploration Permits.

Information submitted and determined to be confidential concerning trade secrets or privileged commercial or financial information which relates to competitive rights is not available to the public. Iowa Code § 207.18(2).

  1. Commission of Veteran Affairs.

Applications, investigations and case records are privileged and confidential. Iowa Code § 35B.10. See 55 Op. Att'y Gen. 114, 117 (November 14, 1955) (Veteran's claim for payment should not be published with other claims allowed by the county board of supervisors).

  1. Iowa Competition Law.

Documents produced pursuant to an investigation into alleged prohibited conduct shall be kept confidential by the attorney general until an action is filed. Iowa Code § 553.9(3). Confidence may be waived by the persons being investigated. Id. Protective orders may be available with regard to trade secrets and confidential research, development and commercial information. Iowa Code § 553.11(6).

  1. Continuing Education.

Licensee disciplinary proceedings are privileged and confidential; but subsequent written decisions are public records. Iowa Code § 272C.6(4). Disclosure exception applies only when disciplinary proceeding initiated. Doe v. Iowa State Bd. of Physical Therapy, 320 N.W.2d 557, 559 (Iowa 1982); see Hall v. Broadlawns Med. Ctr., 811 N.W.2d 478, 484 (Iowa 2012) (“The need for frankness does not justify protecting preexisting documents because the documents were generated before the investigation commenced.”).

  1. Corrections.
  2. "The following information regarding individuals receiving services from the department or from the judicial district departments of correctional services under chapter 905 is confidential and shall not be disseminated by the department to the public:

(1) home street address of the individual receiving services or that individual's family;

(2) department evaluations;

(3) medical, psychiatric or psychological information;

(4) names of associates or accomplices;

(5) name of employer;

(6) Social Security number;

(7) prior criminal history including information on offenses where no conviction occurred;

(8) family and personal history;

(9) financial information;

(10) information from disciplinary reports and investigations other than that identified in subsection 1, paragraph 1;

(11) investigations by the department or other agencies which are contained in the individual's file;

(12) department committee records which include any information identified in paragraphs a through k. A record containing information which is both public and confidential which is reasonably segregable shall not be confidential after deletion of the confidential information;

(13) presentence investigations as provided under chapter 901;

(14) pretrial information that is not otherwise available in public court proceedings; and

(15) correspondence directed to department officers or staff from an individual's family, victims, or employers of a personal or confidential nature. If the custodian of the record determines that the correspondence is confidential, in any proceeding under chapter 22 the burden of proof shall be on the person seeking release of the correspondence, and the writer of the correspondence shall be notified of the proceeding.

Iowa Code § 904.602(2).

  1. Credit Unions.

"Records of the credit union division are public records subject to the provisions of chapter 22, except that papers, documents, reports, reports of examinations and other writing relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of a specific credit union or of other persons by the superintendent pursuant to the laws of this state are not public records and shall not by open for examination or copying by the public or for examination or publication by the news media." Iowa Code § 533.108(1).

  1. Crime Victim Reparation Program.

"Information and records which are confidential under section 22.7 and information or records received from the confidential information or records remain confidential under this section." Iowa Code § 915.90.

  1. Crime Victim Registration.

Registration of a victim, victim’s family, or other interested person with the appropriate law enforcement agency is confidential. Iowa Code § 915.12. Similarly, the identity of a crime victim at a crime victim center is confidential and can only be disclosed with consent of victim or court order. 92 Op. Att'y Gen. #92-3-3 (March 12, 1992); see Iowa Code § 915.20A.

  1. Criminal History and Intelligence Data.

The department of public safety may disseminate criminal history data to criminal justice agencies, public agencies authorized by the director, department of human services, state racing commission, and state lottery agency. Iowa Code § 692.2(1). The class of people to whom the Department of Public Safety may provide copies of data to include "persons, public or private agenc[ies]." Id.  Prosecutors are precluded from obtaining "rap sheets" for prospective jurors to use in jury selection. State v. Bessenecker, 404 N.W.2d 134, 138 (Iowa 1987). Re-dissemination is limited to official purposes in connection with prescribed duties of a criminal justice agency. Iowa Code § 692.3(1). Feeney v. Scott Cty., 290 N.W.2d 885 (Iowa 1980).

“Intelligence data in the files of the department may be disseminated only to a peace officer, criminal or juvenile justice agency, or state or federal regulatory agency, and only if the department is satisfied that the need to know and the intended use are reasonable. However, intelligence data may also be disseminated to an agency, organization, or person when disseminated for an official purpose, and in order to protect a person or property from a threat of imminent serious harm.” Iowa Code § 692.8. 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 31 (February 9, 1981).

"Intelligence data in the possession of a criminal or juvenile justice agency, state or federal regulatory agency, or peace officer, or disseminated by such agency or peace officer, are confidential records under section 22.7, subsection 55." Iowa Code § 692.18.

  1. Department of Human Services.

Specified information with regard to persons receiving services is confidential. Iowa Code § 217.30(1).

  1. Dispute Resolution.

Information relating to agreements between parties and mediator is confidential except when governmental subdivision is a party. Where government is a party, facts and circumstances surrounding dispute are not confidential. Iowa Code § 679.12.

“[M]ediation communications are confidential to the extent agreed to by the parties or provided by other law or rule of this state.” Iowa Code § 679C.108; see Iowa Code § 679C.106 (noting that mediation communication may be discoverable if the evidence is not otherwise available and the interest in obtaining evidence substantially outweighs the interest in protecting confidentiality).

  1. Domestic Abuse.

Information and records are confidential. Iowa Code § 236.10.

  1. Drug Abuse.

Registration and other records of substance abuse facilities are confidential and privileged. Iowa Code § 125.37(1). Records of the identity, diagnosis, prognosis or treatment of one which are maintained in connection with treatment for substance abuse are confidential. Iowa Code § 125.93. See also 42 U.S.C. § 201. An agency evaluation of an independent facility is, however, a public record. 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 448, 450 (Feb. 10, 1976). Records may be disclosed to medical personnel in a medical emergency without consent of patient. Iowa Code § 125.37(3).

  1. Engineers and Surveyors.

Members of the engineering and land surveying examiners board may not disclose information relating to the criminal history or prior misconduct of an applicant, examination contents, or examination results other than the final score (except to the person who took the examination). Iowa Code § 542B.32.

  1. Grain Dealers and Warehouse Operators.

Financial statements required of grain dealers pursuant to chapter 542 are confidential and may be disclosed only to law enforcement agencies, as part of an administrative proceeding, in response to a subpoena, to bonding companies, at the request of the Iowa board of accountancy, or by consent. Iowa Code § 203.16. Financial statements required of warehouse operators are similarly confidential. Iowa Code § 203C.24.

  1. Health Data Commission.

The health information network “involves the secure electronic sharing of health information across the boundaries of individual practice and institutional health settings and with consumers.” Iowa Code § 135D.3. “All health information technology efforts shall endeavor to represent the interests and meet the needs of consumers and the health care sector, protect the privacy of individuals and the confidentiality of individuals' information . . . .” Id.

  1. Health Maintenance Organizations.

The "communications in professional confidence" rules and exceptions set forth in Iowa Code § 622.10, apply to HMO's. Iowa Code § 514B.30. An HMO may not release the names of its members. Id.

  1. Infectious Disease Reports.

Reports of infectious diseases which identify “a person infected with or exposed to a reportable or other disease or health condition, is confidential.” Iowa Code § 139A.3(2)(b).

  1. Inheritance Tax Records.

Information gathered by investigation and inspection pursuant to chapter 450 is confidential and shall not be disclosed except as necessary for enforcement. Iowa Code § 450.68.

  1. Inspections and Appeals (performed by the department of inspections and appeals for the purpose of auditing the operations of the executive branch of state government).

Where disclosure would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation, information received through reports, inspections, audits, etc. shall not be disclosed in a manner which identifies individuals, corporations and others prior to issuance of results of inquiry. Iowa Code § 10A.105. Hospital records shall not be disclosed. Id.

  1. Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Records, papers and proceedings are confidential unless the commission applies to the supreme court to retire, discipline or remove a judicial officer. Iowa Code § 602.2103 (emphasis added).

  1. Mental Health Patient Information Disclosures.

Mental health information is not subject to disclosure except as follows: (1) Voluntary disclosure by an individual or his representative; (2) Administrative disclosure where necessary to facilitate provision of services; (3) Compulsory disclosure to protect human health and safety, respond to court orders, initiate commitment proceedings, or overcome claims in legal proceedings. Iowa Code §§ 228.2, 228.3, 228.5 and 228.6.

Records of involuntary hospitalization proceedings are confidential. Iowa Code § 229.24.

Psychological Test Data. “Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person in possession of psychological test material shall not disclose the material to any other person, including the individual who is a subject of the test. In addition, the test material shall not be disclosed in any administrative, judicial, or legislative proceeding. However, upon the request of an individual who is the subject of a test, all records associated with a psychological test of that individual shall be disclosed to a psychologist licensed pursuant to chapter 154B designated by the individual. An individual's request for the records shall be in writing and shall comply with the requirements of § 228.3, relating to voluntary disclosures of mental health information, except that the individual shall not have the right to inspect the test materials.” Iowa Code § 228.9.

  1. Morbidity and Mortality Studies.

The identity of persons whose condition or treatment is studied in connection with medical research is confidential. Iowa Code § 135.41.

  1. Nursing Home Administrators.

“The identity of [an applicant for a health-related profession] taking an examination shall not be disclosed during the examination . . . .” Iowa Code § 147.37.

  1. Peer Review Boards.

In all disciplinary actions against licensed professional where privileged and confidential information becomes part of the record, "the identity of an individual whose privilege has been involuntarily waived shall be withheld." Iowa Code § 147.135(2). Peer review records are privileged and confidential. Id.

  1. Physicians and Surgeons.

Members of the examining board may not disclose information relating to the criminal history or prior misconduct of an applicant, examination content, or examination results other than final score (except to the person who took the examination). Iowa Code § 147.21.

"[A] . . . physician . . . who obtains information by reason of . . . employment . . . shall not be allowed, in giving testimony, to disclose any confidential communication properly entrusted to the person in the person's professional capacity, and necessary and proper to enable the person to discharge the functions of the person's office according to the usual course of practice or discipline." Iowa Code § 622.10. The person in whose favor the prohibition is made may waive the rights conferred. Id. Section 622.10 does not apply in an action in which the condition is an element of the claim or defense. Id.

  1. Presentence Reports.

Presentence investigation reports are confidential. Iowa Code § 901.4; 80 Op. Att'y Gen. 895 (December 10, 1980).

  1. Private Investigative and Security Agencies.

All disciplinary complaints, investigations, reports and information in the possession of the department of public safety are confidential. Iowa Code § 80A.17(1). The records are, however, subject to discovery, subpoena, and other means of legal compulsion. Id.

Lists of employees and their personal histories are confidential. Iowa Code § 80A.17(2). Lists of agency names, agency owners, officers and directors, however, are public records. Id. The department of public safety may confirm that a specified individual is employed at a licensed agency. Id.

  1. Public Officials.

"A public officer cannot be examined as to communications made to the public officer in official confidence, when the public interests would suffer by the disclosure." Iowa Code § 622.11. Consideration is given to potential for harm to the public interest, not the interest of the officer. State Ex Rel. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Iowa Cty., 356 N.W.2d 523, 527 (Iowa 1984).

  1. Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons.

Members of the real estate examining board may not disclose information relating to the criminal history or prior misconduct of an applicant, examination, contents, or examination results other than final score (except to the person who took the examination). Iowa Code § 543B.52.

  1. Search Warrants.

All information filed with the court for purposes of securing a search warrant is confidential until the warrant is executed and returned. Iowa Code § 808.13.

  1. Shorthand Reporters.

Members of the board of shorthand reporters examiners may not disclose information relating to the criminal history or prior misconduct of an applicant, examination content, or examination results other than final score (except to the person who took the examination). Iowa Code §  602.3301(1).

  1. Social Workers.

A licensed social worker may not disclose information acquired in a professional capacity except: "(1) If the information reveals the contemplation or commission of a crime; (2) If the privilege is waived by bringing charges; (3) Written consent; (4) Court testimony concerning child welfare; or (5) To seek consultation with professional colleagues." Iowa Code § 154C.5.

  1. Unemployment Compensation Records.

Information obtained by Iowa Workforce Development in the course of administering chapter 96 is generally confidential. Iowa Code § 96.11(6).

  1. Venereal Disease Records.

Reports to the Iowa Department of Health concerning persons infected with venereal disease are confidential to the extent necessary to protect the identity of persons named. Iowa Code § 139A.3.

  1. Veterans' Exposure to Chemicals (Agent Orange).

The applicable portions of the Iowa Code were repealed in 2017. See Iowa Code chapter 36.

  1. Vital Statistics.

The following vital statistics in the possession of a county registrar or state archivist may be inspected and copied (if the records are at least seventy-five years old):

(1) a record of birth if, that birth did not occur out of wedlock;

(2) a record of marriage;

(3) a record of divorce, dissolution or annulment; and

(4) a record of death, if that death was not a fetal death.

Iowa Code § 144.43.

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C. Court-derived exclusions, common law prohibitions, recognized privileges against disclosure

Court-derived exclusions, etc., are discussed throughout. No other decisions creating new, non-statutory or extra-statutory exemptions have been found.

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D. Are segregable portions of records containing exempt material available?

The statute does not specifically provide for access to the segregable portions of records containing exempt material. Section 22.7(18) does provide that information contained in communications not required by law are public, to the extent the identity of persons outside of government can be protected. See also Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. Public Records v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666, 671 (Iowa 1992) ("On remand the court should direct the district to produce redacted copies of any documents produced from an outside source as to which redaction will render its source unknown.").

In addition, the statute provides that state agencies must adopt rules that describe which agency "records are public records, which are confidential records and which are partially public and partially confidential records." Iowa Code § 22.11(1)(b). Presumably, this requirement is imposed to facilitate access to the segregable portions of otherwise confidential agency records.

Finally, in addition to this language in chapter 22, there are other, express statutory provisions allowing access to the segregable portions of records containing exempt material. See, e.g., Iowa Code § 246.602(2)(1) ("A record containing information which is both public and confidential which is reasonably segregable shall not be confidential after deletion of the confidential information.").

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III. Record categories - open or closed

A. Autopsy and coroners reports

A state medical examiner is created by Iowa Code § 691.5. A county medical examiner is created by Iowa Code § 331.801. Neither chapter 691 nor chapter 331 includes a provision governing accessibility to the examiner's report.

Iowa Code § 331.802 requires a county medical examiner to prepare a record of findings for submission to the state medical examiner and the county attorney. If the decedent is a child under the age of two, a copy of the findings is available to the child's parent, guardian or custodian, upon request.

Iowa Code § 691.6 requires the state medical examiner to keep complete records, but is silent as to the confidentiality of those records.

The reports generated by state medical examiners are probably subject to the provisions of chapter 22 governing availability of investigative reports. However, reports generated by county medical examiners are public records. Op. Att’y Gen., 1972 WL 262460 (Oct. 20, 1972) (noting a medical examiner’s report required by § 331.802 is not a confidential public record and may be examined by any citizen of Iowa); Op. Att’y Gen, 1961 WL 110128 (Oct. 27, 1961) (noting reports and records compiled and filed by the county medical examiner are public records which can be lawfully revealed to any interested party).

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B. Administrative enforcement records (e.g., worker safety and health inspections, or accident investigations)

Iowa Code § 80A.17 addresses the confidentiality of records held by private investigators and security agencies.  That provision reads:

“1. All complaint files, investigation files, other investigation reports, and other investigative information in the possession of the department or its employees or agents which relate to licensee discipline are privileged and confidential except that they are subject to discovery, subpoena, or other means of legal compulsion for their release to a person other than the licensee, and are admissible in evidence in a judicial or administrative proceeding other than a proceeding involving licensee discipline. In addition, investigative information in the possession of the department's employees or agents which relates to licensee discipline may be disclosed to the appropriate licensing authority in another state, the District of Columbia, or a territory or country in which the licensee is licensed or has applied for a license. If the investigative information in the possession of the department indicates a crime has been committed, the information shall be reported to the proper law enforcement agency. A final written decision and finding of fact of the department in a disciplinary proceeding is a public record.

(a) Pursuant to section 17A.19, subsection 6, the department, upon an appeal by the licensee of the decision by the department shall transmit the entire record of the contested case to the reviewing court.

(b) Notwithstanding section 17A.19, subsection 6, if a waiver of privilege has been involuntary and evidence has been received at a disciplinary hearing, the court shall order withheld the identity of the individual whose privilege was waived.

  1. Lists of employees of a licensed agency and their personal histories shall be held as confidential. However, the lists of the names of the licensed agencies, their owners, corporate officers and directors shall be held as public records. The commissioner may confirm that a specific individual is an employee of a licensed agency upon request and may make lists of licensed agencies' employees available to law enforcement agencies.”

Iowa Code § 80A.17.

OSHA Inspections are covered under Iowa Code § 88.12.  That provision states:

“Notwithstanding any provisions of this chapter, all information reported to or otherwise obtained by the commissioner or the commissioner's representative in connection with any inspection or proceeding under this chapter which contains or might reveal a trade secret shall be considered confidential, except that such information may be disclosed to other officers or employees concerned with carrying out this chapter or when relevant to any proceeding under this chapter. In any such proceeding the commissioner, the appeal board, or the court shall issue such orders as may be appropriate to protect the confidentiality of trade secrets.”  Iowa Code § 88.12

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C. Bank records

“The superintendent, members of the state banking council, general counsel, examiners, or other employees of the banking division shall not disclose, in any manner, to any person other than the person examined and those regulatory agencies referred to in section 524.217, subsection 2, any information relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of any state bank, persons subject to the provisions of chapter 533A, 533C, 536, or 536A, any affiliate of any state bank, or an affiliate of a person subject to the provisions of chapter 533A, 533C, 536, or 536A, except when ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction and then only in those instances referred to in section 524.215, subsection 2, paragraphs “a”, “b”, “c”, “e”, and “f”.”  Iowa Code § 524.212. See also 75 Op. Att'y Gen. 370, 371 (January 4, 1974) (Superintendent may respond to subpoena in proceeding in which FDIC is party).

Iowa Code § 524.215 further addresses confidentially of bank records:

a. "1. All records of the department of banking shall be public records subject to the provisions of chapter 22 [open records law], except that all papers, documents, reports, reports of examinations and other writings relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of any state bank or other person by the superintendent pursuant to the laws of this state shall not be public records and shall not be open for examination or copying by the public or for examination or publication by the news media.

2. The superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistants or examiners shall not be subpoenaed in any cause or proceeding to give testimony concerning information relating specifically to the supervision and regulation of any state bank or other person by the superintendent pursuant to the laws of this state, nor shall the records of the banking division which relate specifically to the supervision and regulation of any such state bank or other such person be offered in evidence in any court or subject to subpoena by any party except, where relevant:

a. In such actions or proceedings as are brought by the superintendent;

b. In any matter in which an interested and proper party seeks review of a decision of the superintendent;

c. In any action or proceeding which arises out of the criminal provisions of the laws of this state or the United States;

d. In any action brought as a shareholders derivative suit against a state bank or other entity regulated by the superintendent;

e. In an action brought to recover moneys for a loss in connection with an indemnity bond which was a result of embezzlement, misappropriation, or misuse of state bank funds by a director, officer, or employee of the state bank.

f. In an action brought to recover moneys for a loss in connection with an indemnity bond which was a result of embezzlement, misappropriation, or misuse of funds, belonging to an entity regulated by the superintendent, by a director, officer, or employee of the entity.”

The Iowa Department of Revenue and Finance has its own provisions.  Iowa Code § 421.17(7) states: “No bank may be required to divulge to the director information about the property of a person when that information was obtained as a part of a business transaction with the bank, in the ordinary course of bank business, and the information was necessary and proper to the discharge of the duty of the bank.”

It is unlawful for the director or others to divulge information concerning the business affairs, income, etc., of any person examined pursuant to Chapter 422. Iowa Code § 422.72(1).  Disclosure that a named individual has filed a return is not prohibited. 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 679 (July 27, 1976). See also Iowa Code § 422.20 (applying to present and former state employees); and 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 302, 305, 2081 WL 37148 (Nov. 25, 1981) (purpose of confidentiality "to promote accurate and complete reporting of information to the agency by insuring to the taxpayer that the agency will not disclose any secrets.").

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D. Budgets

Governor’s recommendations are considered confidential until made public by the governor. Iowa Code § 8.35A(2).

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E. Business records, financial data, trade secrets

“Trade secrets which are recognized and protected as such by law.” Iowa Code § 22.7(3). "The custodian of such a record (computer program and data base), however, is required to keep it confidential if the record is a trade secret recognized and protected by law." Brown v. Iowa Legislative Council, 490 N.W.2d 551, 552 (Iowa 1992).

"Business information may also fall within the definition of a trade secret, including such matters as maintenance of data on customer lists and needs, source of supplies, confidential costs, price data and figures." US West Commc’ns Inc. v. Office of Consumer Advocate, 498 N.W.2d 711, 714 (Iowa 1993). However, in order to get trade secret protection, the company must prove independent economic value. See Iowa Film Prod. Svcs. v. Iowa Dep’t of Econ. Dev., 818 N.W.2d 207, 222 (Iowa 2012) (citing US West Commc’ns Inc. v. Office of Consumer Advocate, 498 N.W.2d 711, 714-15 (Iowa 1993) (“We held [in US West] that the lease/sale information did not qualify for a trade secret exemption under section 22.7(3) because the ‘independent economic value’ element had not been met.”).

"A trade secret is a process or device for continuous use in the operation of a business." Basic Chemicals Inc. v. Benson, 251 N.W.2d 220, 226 (Iowa 1977).

(Information concerning pre-arranged funeral plans which must be filed with the county attorney in the county where the plan is located pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 523A is not protected as a trade secret. 83 Op. Att'y Gen. 70, 71 (July 18, 1983).

Budget summaries for a film do not qualify as protectable trade secrets. Iowa Film Prod. Svcs. v. Iowa Dep’t of Econ. Dev., 818 N.W.2d 207, 210 (Iowa 2012).

Trade secret protection cannot be used to shield trade secrets from the regular discovery process in litigation. Mediacom Iowa, L.L.C. v. Inc. City of Spencer, 682 N.W.2d 62, 69 (Iowa 2004).

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F. Contracts, proposals and bids

Reports evaluated and recommendations prepared by the state which concern bids (for the purchase of real or personal property as set forth in Iowa Code § 22.7(7) are closed until accepted. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 19, 21 (March 9, 1979).

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G. Collective bargaining records

Pre-negotiation materials developed to affect an employer's bargaining position are confidential. 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 514, 519 (March 18, 1976). Negotiating sessions, strategy meetings, mediation and deliberation of arbitrators are exempt. Iowa Code § 20.17(3). Bargaining sessions, however, are open to the public; and the terms of a proposed agreement must be made public. Iowa Code § 20.17(3), (4).

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H. Economic development records

Confidential. Iowa Code § 22.7(8)

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I. Election Records

Available from the State Commissioner of Elections. Iowa Code § 47.7.  Voter registration records may only be used for voter registration purposes.  Iowa Code § 48A.11(4)(b).  Voting results are available from the State Commissioner of Elections. Iowa Code § 47.7.

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J. Emergency Medical Services records

“Iowa Trauma Patient Data Dictionary” and the “Iowa EMS Patient Registry Data Dictionary” are available through the Iowa Department of is available through the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075, or the bureau of EMS Web site (https://idph.iowa.gov/BETS/EMS).

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K. Gun permits

Firearm permits and revocations held by the commissioner of public safety in the commissioner’s official capacity are public records. Clark v. Banks, 515 N.W.2d 5 (Iowa 1994). The commissioner of public safety “shall keep confidential personally identifiable information of holders of professional or nonprofessional permits to carry weapons and permits to acquire pistols or revolvers . . . .” This includes the individual’s “name, social security number, date of birth, residential or business address, and driver’s license or other identification number of the applicant or permit holder.” Iowa Code § 724.23. Statistical information may be disclosed. Id.  Information may be released to a criminal or juvenile justice agency “for the performance of any lawfully authorized duty or for conducting a lawfully authorized background investigation.” Id. The confidentiality required does not apply to the release of information “relating to the validity of a professional permit to carry weapons to an employer who requires an employee or an agent of the employer to possess a professional permit to carry weapons as part of the duties of the employee or agent.” Id.

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L. Homeland security and anti-terrorism measures

In 2002, the Legislature added what is now Iowa Code § 22.7(45), which provides:

The critical asset protection plan or any part of the plan prepared pursuant to section 29C.8 and any information held by the homeland security and emergency management division that was supplied to the division by a public or private agency or organization and used in the development of the critical asset protection plan to include, but not be limited to, surveys, lists, maps, or photographs. However, the administrator shall make the list of assets available for examination by any person. A person wishing to examine the list of assets shall make a written request to the administrator on a form approved by the administrator. The list of assets may be viewed at the division's offices during normal working hours. The list of assets shall not be copied in any manner. Communications and asset information not required by law, rule, or procedure that are provided to the administrator by persons outside of government and for which the administrator has signed a nondisclosure agreement are exempt from public disclosures. The homeland security and emergency management division may provide all or part of the critical asset plan to federal, state, or local governmental agencies which have emergency planning or response functions if the administrator is satisfied that the need to know and intended use are reasonable. An agency receiving critical asset protection plan information from the division shall not redisseminate the information without prior approval of the administrator.

More recently, the Legislature added § 22.7(11), which details procedures for the protection of government employees.

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M. Hospital reports

Hospital records, medical records, and professional counselor records of the condition, diagnosis, care, or treatment of a patient or former patient or a counselee or former counselee, including outpatient. However, confidential communications between a crime victim and the victim's counselor are not subject to disclosure except as provided in § 915.20A.1 (Confidential Communications — Counselors and Victims). However, the Iowa department of public health shall adopt rules which provide for the sharing of information among agencies concerning the maternal and child health program, while maintaining an individual's confidentiality. Iowa Code § 22.7(2).

"Outpatient," as used in § 22.7(2), means one who is "treated at a clinic or dispensary connected with a hospital who is not a hospital inmate." Head v. Colloton, 331 N.W.2d 870, 874 (Iowa 1983). The identity of a potential bone marrow donor is a hospital record of the condition, diagnosis, care or treatment of a patient or former patient within the meaning of this section. Head, 331 N.W.2d at 876.

But, documents filed in the office of the governor which pertain to the involuntary sterilization of a county home resident were public and not confidential hospital records within the meaning of the exemption because they were not maintained by the governor as hospital or physician records. Howard v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 284 N.W.2d 289, 300 (Iowa 1979).

Records pertaining to medical services, including the identity of doctors, nurses and hospitals receiving public funds for services performed, the number and kind of services performed, and statistical information about patients (so long as identity is not revealed) are not excluded from public examination. 78 Op. Att'y Gen. 677, 678 - 679 (Sept. 20, 1978).

Iowa Code Chapter 135 give university hospitals discretion to deny public disclosure of the infection data summaries. Burton v. Univ. of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, 566 N.W.2d 182, 189 (Iowa 1997).

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N. Personnel records

Iowa Code § 22.7(11) addresses the confidentiality of personnel records:

a. Personal information in confidential personnel records of government bodies relating to identified or identifiable individuals who are officials, officers, or employees of the government bodies are confidential. However, the following information relating to such individuals contained in personnel records shall be public records:

(1) The name and compensation of the individual including any written agreement establishing compensation or any other terms of employment excluding any information otherwise excludable from public information pursuant to this section or any other applicable provision of law. For purposes of this paragraph, "compensation" means payment of, or agreement to pay, any money, thing of value, or financial benefit conferred in return for labor or services rendered by an official, officer, or employee plus the value of benefits conferred including but not limited to casualty, disability, life, or health insurance, other health or wellness benefits, vacation, holiday, and sick leave, severance payments, retirement benefits, and deferred compensation.

(2) The dates the individual was employed by the government body.

(3) The positions the individual holds or has held with the government body.

(4) The educational institutions attended by the individual, including any diplomas and degrees earned, and the names of the individual's previous employers, positions previously held, and dates of previous employment.

(5) The fact that the individual was discharged as the result of a final disciplinary action upon the exhaustion of all applicable contractual, legal, and statutory remedies.

b. Personal information in confidential personnel records of government bodies relating to student employees shall only be released pursuant to 20 USC § 1232g.

Iowa Code § 22.7(11).

This section applies only to personal information in confidential personnel records. City of Dubuque v. Tel. Herald Inc., 297 N.W.2d 523, 526 (Iowa 1980). In determining whether information sought is personal information protected by right of privacy, balance public interest served by disclosure and private interest in protecting against invasion of privacy. Id. at 526-27, Applications for appointive city officer were not protected by this section. Id. at 527. But see Iowa Code § 22.7(18).

Ordinarily, information which includes one's name, address, employer, education, training and experience is not considered "personal." 81 Op. Att'y Gen. 3, 5 (Jan. 19, 1981).  Lists of state employees participating in deferred compensation plans are public records, but extent of individual participation in plans is personal and confidential. 74 Op. Att'y Gen. 430, 433 (Feb. 27, 1974).

This subsection has also been construed to make settlement agreements between public bodies and employees public records. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. Pub. Records v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666, 669 Iowa (1992) ("[T]he outstanding characteristic of the settlement agreement was the fact that public funds were being paid to settle a private dispute. We think the document was of the type the legislature designated for disclosure."). See also Iowa Code § 22.13 ("When a government body reaches a final, binding, written settlement agreement that resolves a legal dispute claiming monetary damages, equitable relief, or a violation of a rule or statute, the government body shall, upon request and to the extent allowed under applicable law, prepare a brief summary of the resolution of the dispute indicating the identity of the parties involved, the nature of the dispute, and the terms of the settlement, including any payments made by or on behalf of the government body and any actions to be taken by the government body. A government body is not required to prepare a summary if the settlement agreement includes the information required to be included in the summary. The settlement agreement and any required summary shall be a public record.").

Compensation allocated to and used by individual public employees, whether for salary, sick leave or vacation, is a matter of legitimate concern to the public. So long as the information disclosed does not reveal personal medical conditions or professional evaluations, the public has the right to examine it. Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42, 48 (Iowa 1999).

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1. Salary

Salary information is generally a public record.

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2. Disciplinary records

The fact that the individual was discharged as the result of a final disciplinary action upon the exhaustion of all applicable contractual, legal, and statutory remedies is generally a public record.

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3. Applications

Iowa Code § 22.7(11)(a) prevents from disclosure “[p]ersonal information in confidential personnel records of government bodies relating to identified or identifiable individuals who are officials, officers, or employees of the government bodies . . . .” (2018).

In City of Dubuque v. Telegraph Herald, Inc., the Iowa Supreme Court held that applications are not personnel records. 297 N.W.2d 523 (Iowa 1980). Additionally, applications for employment with a governmental entity may be subject to disclosure, even when confidentiality is requested by the applicant. See id. at 527­-29 (acknowledging that even though the applicants requested confidentiality, there was no “pledge” of confidentiality and thus disclosure was not prohibited). Further, even if a governmental entity does pledge confidentiality, that may not be enough to prevent disclosure. Id. at 528 (relying upon numerous federal court cases finding a pledge of confidentiality is not sufficient to prevent disclosure). The court ruled that “personal information” did not categorically mean information “customarily kept confidential in private business.” Id.

The Iowa Supreme Court subsequently ruled that employment applications for a position with a governmental entity must be kept confidential unless applicants consented to public disclosure, following the passing of Iowa Code § 22.7(18) in 1985. City of Sioux City v. Greater Sioux City Press Club, 421 N.W.2d 895, 897 (Iowa 1988). This provision prevents from disclosure

[c]ommunications not required by law, rule, procedure, or contract that are made to a government body or to any of its employees by identified persons outside of government could reasonably believe that those persons would be discouraged from making them to that government body if they were available for public examination.

Iowa Code § 22.7(18) (2018). The provision further provides that these communications are public records “to the extent that the person outside of government making that communication consent to its treatment as a public record.” Id. In City of Sioux City v. Greater Sioux City Press Club, 37 applicants indicated they did not desire public disclosure of their applications. 421 N.W.2d at 897. The court ruled that the legislature, in enacting this provision, intended to include solicited communications such as employment applications. Id.  at 898. The court agreed with the City’s argument that requiring disclosure of employment applications could deter applicants from applying. Id. at 897. Employment applications to governmental entities submitted without authorization for disclosure may be kept confidential. Id. at 899.

The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed this in Wings v. Dunlap by holding that confidential employment applications are not subject to disclosure. 527 N.W.2d 407, 410 (Iowa Ct. App. 1994).

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4. Personally identifying information

Confidential.

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5. Expense reports

Not unless they come within the definition of “compensation.”

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6. Other

O. Police records

Iowa Code § 22.7(5) prevents from required disclosure “[p]eace officers’ investigative reports, privileged records or information specified in section 80G.2, and specific portions of electronic mail and telephone billing records of law enforcement agencies if that information is part of an ongoing investigation . . . .” (2018). Iowa Code § 80G.2 prevents a law enforcement officer from being required to give evidence in any criminal proceeding that requires the disclosure of information relating to identification documents necessary for the investigation or personal identifying information about the law enforcement officer or their family. (2018).

The section does require disclosure of “date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding a crime or incident . . . .” Iowa Code § 22.7(5). It excludes from required disclosure any facts or circumstances that would “plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the safety of an individual.” Id. These are classified as “unusual circumstances” and are protected from disclosure. Id.

In State v. White, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a defendant is entitled to examine tape recordings of officers’ radio calls and conversations to determine whether they contained information material to his defense. 151 N.W.2d 552 (Iowa 1967). Under this, the defendant and counsel are not entitled to hear everything that might be recorded. Id. at 556. Rather, the court should determine, in the presence of the county attorney and counsel for defendant, whether the recording contains anything germane to the issue at hand. Id.

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1. Accident reports

Under Iowa Code § 321.266(3), every law enforcement officer who investigates a vehicle accident must create and forward a written report of the accident within 24 hours to the Iowa Department of Transportation. (2018). This report is for the confidential use of the department but shall be produced by request to “any person involved in the accident, the person’s insurance company or its agent, or the attorney for such person.” Iowa Code § 321.271 (2018); Grocers Wholesale Cooperative, Inc. v. Nussberger Trucking Co., 192 N.W.2d 753, 755 (Iowa 1971). The written report shall also be made available to the federal motor carrier safety administration or the attorney general, upon written request. Iowa Code § 321.271. The Department of Transportation is required to disclose the identity and addresses of persons involved and may also disclose the name of the insurance companies with whom the other persons have liability insurance. Id. If a law enforcement requests a copy of their report from the department, it shall be granted. Id. The written report is not admissible as evidence in any criminal or civil case “arising out of the facts on which the report is based.” Id. The date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the incident are not confidential. Id.

Witness statements made to a peace officer during the investigation of a motor vehicle accident may not be privileged where they were not made in official confidence to the officer. Shannon by Shannon v. Hansen, 469 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Iowa 1991). But see Curry v. Jones, 138 N.W.2d 101 (Iowa 1965) (holding information given to a law enforcement officer for purpose of making a written report of the accident cannot be used to prejudice the informant in a civil action).  The Iowa Supreme Court applied a three-part test to determine whether witness statements were protected from disclosure to private litigants in a civil action surrounding a car accident. Id. The test requires: “(1) a public officer is being examined, (2) the communications made to the officer were in official confidence, and (3) the public interests would suffer by disclosure.” Id. (citing State ex rel. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Iowa Cty., 356 N.W.2d 253, 257 (Iowa 1984)). In Iowa, a report filed by a law enforcement officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation regarding a motor vehicle accident “is available to any party to the accident and to certain others” under Iowa Code § 321.271. Id. at 415. Further, statements made by witnesses to law enforcement investigating a motor vehicle accident are not made in official confidence and thus their disclosure is authorized under Iowa Code § 321.371. Id. The court here recognized a distinction between criminal and accident investigations and between ongoing and completed investigations. See id.

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2. Police blotter

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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3. 911 tapes

Generally, 911 tapes are public record and may be obtained by anyone. Can the Public Obtain Copies of “9-1-1-“ Audio Tapes?, Iowa Attorney General (Feb. 1, 2006), https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/about-us/sunshine-advisories/can-the-public-obtain-copies-of-9-1-1-audio-tapes/; Iowa Code § 22.1(3) (2018). However, if the 911 call includes confidential information, it may be treated as part of a law enforcement officer’s investigative report. Id. In this case, the “date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances” must still be released unless that information would “plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger” to an individual’s safety. Id.

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4. Investigatory records

Iowa Code § 22.7(5) excludes from required disclosure peace officers’ investigative reports, if the information is part of an ongoing investigation. Courts have acknowledged the State’s “real and important interest” in ensuring investigatory records are kept confidential. E.g., State ex re. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Iowa Cty., 356 N.W.2d 253, 259 (Iowa 1984) (denying civil litigants access to confidential investigation files on a double homicide in a wrongful death case).

Defendants are entitled to access certain statements, reports, photographs, and other physical evidence prior to trial. State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Iowa 1969). A defendant is entitled to access to “all evidentiary information which is in possession of the State and which is necessary to assure him a fair trial.” Id. To access this information, a defendant should request the documents and evidenced desired with specificity. Id. at 770 (citing State v. Kelly, 91 N.W.2d 562, 562 (Iowa 1958) (affirming the trial court’s denial of a defendant’s “broad and blind fishing expedition” where the defendant failed to demand specific documents and failed to show any such reports or evidence were in the State’s possession or even in existence)). A defendant is not entitled to gain access to copies of police reports as this could “unreasonably and unnecessarily impede the investigatory process . . . .” Id.  at 774.

The Iowa Court of Appeals did grant a prisoner access to police investigative files following the prisoner’s criminal conviction where the State failed to establish that public interests would suffer by disclosure of the files and so the records were not privileged under Iowa Code § 22.7(5). State v. Henderson, No. 01-0295, 2002 WL 987851, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. May 15, 2002). In this case, the State did not present evidence that police relied upon confidential informants for information during the investigation and the case was not ongoing. Id. at *2. Without evidence of a particular public interest that would be affected, the Iowa Court of Appeals held the investigative files could be properly disclosed to the prisoner. Id. at *3.

Witness statements may also not be privileged where they were not made in official confidence to the officer. Shannon by Shannon v. Hansen, 469 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Iowa 1991). The Iowa Supreme Court applied a three-part test to determine whether witness statements were protected from disclosure to private litigants in a civil action surrounding a car accident. Id. The test requires: “(1) a public officer is being examined, (2) the communications made to the officer were in official confidence, and (3) the public interests would suffer by disclosure.” Id. (citing State ex rel. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 356 N.W.2d 253, 257 (Iowa 1984)). In Iowa, a report filed by a law enforcement officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation regarding a motor vehicle accident “is available to any party to the accident and to certain others” under Iowa Code § 321.271. Id. at 415. Further, statements made by witnesses to law enforcement investigating a motor vehicle accident are not made in official confidence and thus their disclosure is authorized under Iowa Code § 321.371. Id. The court here recognized a distinction between criminal and accident investigations and between ongoing and completed investigations. See id.

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5. Arrest records

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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6. Compilations of criminal histories

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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7. Victims

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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8. Confessions

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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9. Confidential informants

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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10. Police techniques

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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11. Mugshots

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).

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12. Sex offender records

See generally Iowa Code § 22.7(5).
Sex offender records are not confidential under Iowa Code § 692A.121, which provides:

1. The department shall maintain an internet site for the public and others to access relevant information about sex offenders. The internet site, at a minimum, shall be searchable by name, county, city, zip code, and geographic radius.

2. The department shall provide updated or corrected relevant information within five business days of the information being updated or corrected, from the sex offender registry to the following:

a. A criminal or juvenile justice agency, an agency of the state, a sex offender registry of another jurisdiction, or the federal government.

b. The general public through the sex offender registry internet site.

(1) The following relevant information about a sex offender shall be disclosed on the internet site:

(a) The date of birth.
(b) The name, nickname, aliases, including ethnic or tribal names.
(c) Photographs.
(d) The physical description, including scars, marks, or tattoos.
(e) The residence.
(f) The statutory citation and text of the offense committed that requires registration under this chapter.
(g) A specific reference indicating whether a particular sex offender is subject to residency restrictions pursuant to section 692A.114.
(h) A specific reference indicating whether a particular sex offender is subject to exclusion zone restrictions pursuant to section 692A.113.

(2) The following relevant information shall not be disclosed on the internet site:

(a) The relevant information about a sex offender who was under twenty years of age at the time the offender committed a violation of section 709.4, subsection 2, paragraph "c", subparagraph (4).
(b) The employer name, address, or location where a sex offender acts as an employee in any form of employment.
(c) The address and name of any school where a student required to be on the registry attends.
(d) The real name of a sex offender protected under 18 U.S.C. § 3521.
(e) The statutory citation and text of the offense committed for an incest conviction in violation of section 726.2, however, the citation and text of an incest conviction shall be disclosed on the internet site as a conviction of section 709.4 or 709.8.
(f) Any other relevant information not described in subparagraph (1).

c. The general public through any other means, at the discretion of the department, any relevant information that is available on the internet site.

3. A criminal or juvenile justice agency may provide relevant information from the sex offender registry to the following:

a. A criminal or juvenile justice agency, an agency of the state, or a sex offender registry of another jurisdiction, or the federal government.

b. The general public, any information available to the general public in subsection 2, including public and private agencies, organizations, public places, child care facilities, religious and youth organizations, neighbors, neighborhood associations, community meetings, and employers. The relevant information available to the general public may be distributed to the public through printed materials, visual or audio press releases, radio communications, or through a criminal or juvenile justice agency's internet site.

4. When a sex offender moves into a school district or moves within a school district, the county sheriff of the county of the offender's new residence shall provide relevant information that is available to the general public in subsection 2 to the administrative office of the school district in which the person required to register resides, and shall also provide relevant information to any nonpublic school near the offender's residence.

5. a. A member of the public may contact a county sheriff's office to request relevant information from the registry regarding a specific sex offender. A person making a request for relevant information may make the request by telephone, in writing, or in person, and the request shall include the name of the person and at least one of the following identifiers pertaining to the sex offender about whom the information is sought:

(1) The date of birth of the person.
(2) The social security number of the person.
(3) The address of the person.
(4) Internet identifiers.
(5) Telephone numbers, including any landline or wireless numbers.

b. The relevant information made available to the general public pursuant to this subsection shall include all the relevant information provided to the general public on the internet site pursuant to subsection 2, and the following additional relevant information:

(1) Educational institutions attended as a student, including the name and address of such institution.
(2) Employment information including the name and address of employer.
(3) Temporary lodging information, including the dates when residing at the temporary lodging.
(4) Vehicle information.

c. A county sheriff or police department shall not charge a fee relating to a request for relevant information.

6. A county sheriff shall also provide to a person upon request access to a list of all registrants in that county.

7. The following relevant information shall not be provided to the general public:

a. The identity of the victim.
b. Arrests not resulting in a conviction.
c. Passport and immigration documents.
d. A government issued driver's license or identification card.
e. DNA information.
f. Fingerprints.
g. Palm prints.
h. Professional licensing information.
i. Social security number.
j. Real name protected under 18 U.S.C. § 3521.

8. Notwithstanding sections 232.147 through 232.151, records concerning convictions which are committed by a minor may be released in the same manner as records of convictions of adults.

9. A person may contact the department or a county sheriff's office to verify if a particular internet identifier or telephone number is one that has been included in a registration by a sex offender.

10. The department shall include links to sex offender safety information, educational resources pertaining to the prevention of sexual assaults, and the national sex offender registry.

11. The department shall include on the sex offender registry internet site instructions and any applicable forms necessary for a person seeking correction of information that the person contends is erroneous.

12. When the department receives and approves registration data, such data shall be made available on the sex offender registry internet site within five business days.

13. The department shall maintain an automated electronic mail notification system, which shall be available by free subscription to any person, to provide notice of addition, deletion, or changes to any sex offender registration, relevant information within a postal zip code or, if selected by a subscriber, a geographic radius or, if selected by a subscriber, specific to a sex offender.

14. Sex offender registry records are confidential records not subject to examination and copying by a member of the public and shall only be released as provided in this section.

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13. Emergency medical services records

Generally confidential pursuant to Iowa Code § 22.7(2).  “Iowa Trauma Patient Data Dictionary” and the “Iowa EMS Patient Registry Data Dictionary” are available through the Iowa Department of is available through the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075, or the bureau of EMS Web site (www.idph.state.ia.us/ems).

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14. Police video (i.e., “body camera footage”)

P. Prison, parole and probation reports

1. "The following information regarding individuals receiving services from the department or from the judicial district departments of correctional services under chapter 905 is confidential and shall not be disseminated by the department to the public:

a. home street address of the individual receiving services or that individual's family;

b. department evaluations;

c. medical, psychiatric or psychological information;

d. names of associates or accomplices;

e. name of employer;

f. Social Security number;

g. prior criminal history including information on offenses where no conviction occurred;

h. family and personal history;

i. financial information;

j. information from disciplinary reports and investigations other than that identified in subsection 1, paragraph 1;

k. investigations by the department or other agencies which are contained in the individual's file;

l. department committee records which include any information identified in paragraphs a through k. A record containing information which is both public and confidential which is reasonably segregable shall not be confidential after deletion of the confidential information;

m. presentence investigations as provided under chapter 901;

n. pretrial information that is not otherwise available in public court proceedings; and

o. correspondence directed to department officers or staff from an individual's family, victims, or employers of a personal or confidential nature. If the custodian of the record determines that the correspondence is confidential, in any proceeding under chapter 22 the burden of proof shall be on the person seeking release of the correspondence, and the writer of the correspondence shall be notified of the proceeding."

Iowa Code § 904.602. See also, 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 415 (January 21, 1976) (Board of parole subject to open meetings law).

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Q. Professional licensing records

“[A]ll complaint files, investigation files, other investigation reports, and other investigative information in the possession of a licensing board or peer review committee acting under the authority of a licensing board or its employees or agents which relates to licensee discipline are privileged and confidential . . . .” Iowa Code § 272C.6. “[A] final written decision and finding of fact of a licensing board in a disciplinary proceeding . . . is a public record.” Id.

Internal audit reports of a pharmacy department are not covered by this section. See Hall v. Broadlawns Med. Ctr., 811 N.W.2d 478, 484–85 (Iowa 2012) (finding an internal audit report that pharmacist in charge of hospital pharmacy created following diversion of controlled substances by another pharmacist did not fall within statutory provision according privileged and confidential status to information that is in the possession of a licensing board or peer review committee and relates to licensee discipline, though in-charge pharmacist simultaneously provided copies of report to Board of Pharmacy, to his employer, and to hospital; his purpose was to find out what was going on in pharmacy as rapidly as possible and to take appropriate action, and did not relate in any way to board's deliberative actions of preparing an open records request).

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R. Public utility records

There is no specific statutory provision covering public utility records, per se, and there are no reported cases.

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S. Real estate appraisals, negotiations

Appraisals, negotiations and transactional details are confidential until after the execution of the contract for purchase or sale. Iowa Code § 22.7(7).

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1. Appraisals

Appraisals, negotiations and transactional details are confidential until after the execution of the contract for purchase or sale. Iowa Code § 22.7(7)

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2. Negotiations

Appraisals, negotiations and transactional details are confidential until after the execution of the contract for purchase or sale. Iowa Code § 22.7(7)

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3. Transactions

Appraisals, negotiations and transactional details are confidential until after the execution of the contract for purchase or sale. Iowa Code § 22.7(7)

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4. Deeds, liens, foreclosures, title history

Public information available in the office of the County Recorder.

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5. Zoning records

Public information available from the local zoning office.

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T. School and university records

Iowa Code § 22.7(1) states the following:

Personal information in records regarding a student, prospective student, or former student maintained, created, collected or assembled by or for a school corporation or educational institution maintaining such records. This subsection shall not be construed to prohibit a postsecondary education institution from disclosing to a parent or guardian information regarding a violation of a federal, state, or local law, or institutional rule or policy governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the child is under the age of twenty-one years and the institution determines that the student committed a disciplinary violation with respect to the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance regardless of whether that information is contained in the student's education records. This subsection shall not be construed to prohibit a school corporation or educational institution from transferring student records electronically to the department of education, an accredited nonpublic school, an attendance center, a school district, or an accredited postsecondary institution in accordance with section 256.9, subsection 44.

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) may protect records containing personally identifiable information from disclosure.  Educational records may be withheld in their entirety as “personally identifiable information” where the requester would otherwise know the identity of the referenced student(s), even with redactions. See Press-Citizen Co., Inc. v. Univ. of Iowa, 817 N.W.2d 480, 492 (Iowa 2012).

“A subpoena is a sufficient court order under section 22.7(1) to allow a party to obtain possession of records to allow a court an opportunity to assess their relevancy and materiality.” Poole v. Hawkeye Area Cmty. Action Program, Inc., 666 N.W.2d 560, 565 (Iowa 2003).

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1. Athletic records

Governed by Iowa Code § 22.7(1).

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2. Trustee records

Governed by Iowa Code § 22.7(1).

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3. Student records

Governed by Iowa Code § 22.7(1).

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4. Other

U. State guard records

Under Iowa Code § 22.7(46), military personnel records recorded by the county recorder pursuant to section 331.608 are confidential.

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V. Tax records

All tax returns and attachments filed with the Iowa Department of Revenue are protected by state confidentiality laws and can be used only for tax administration purposes. They can be released to other persons or agencies only as specifically allowed by law. Protest files, however, are open for public inspection unless you petition the Department, and an Administrative Law Judge or the Director of Revenue issues an order to delete identifying details of the case.

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W. Vital Statistics

The following vital statistics in the possession of a county registrar or state archivist may be inspected and copied (if the records are at least seventy-five years old):

(1) a record of birth if, that birth did not occur out of wedlock;

(2) a record of marriage;

(3) a record of divorce, dissolution or annulment; and

(4) a record of death, if that death was not a fetal death.

Iowa Code § 144.43.

It is unlawful for the state registrar to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in vital statistics records, or to copy or permit to be copied all or part of any such record except as authorized by rule. Id.

Public records shall not be withheld from the public because they are combined with data processing software. Id. The state registrar must separate a public record from the data processing software in order to permit examination of the public record. Id.

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1. Birth certificates

Iowa Code § 144.43; Iowa Code § 144.13 (“The state registrar may share information from birth certificates for the sole purpose of identifying those children in need of immunizations.”).

The department shall, upon request, provide the name, address, social security number, and any other identifying information of a registrant to the biological mother of the child; a court; the department of human services; the attorney of any party to an adoption, termination of parental rights, or establishment of paternity or support action; or to the child support recovery unit for an action to establish paternity or support. The information shall not be divulged to any other person and shall be considered a confidential record as to any other person, except upon order of the court for good cause shown. If the registry has not received a declaration of paternity, the department shall provide a written statement to that effect to the person making the inquiry. Iowa Code § 144.12A; Iowa Code § 22.7(30).

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2. Marriage and divorce

Iowa Code § 144.43.

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3. Death certificates

Iowa Code § 144.43; Iowa Code § 144.26.

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4. Infectious disease and health epidemics

Reports of infectious diseases prepared pursuant to chapter 139A are confidential. Iowa Code § 139A.3.

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IV. Procedure for obtaining records

A. How to start

1. Who receives a request?

The lawful custodian or authorized deputy. Iowa Code § 22.3.
"Each government body shall delegate to particular officials or employees of that government body the responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter and shall publicly announce the particular officials or employees to whom responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter has been delegated. ‘Lawful custodian’ does not mean an automated data processing unit of a public body if the data processing unit holds the records solely as the agent of another public body, nor does it mean a unit which holds the records of other public bodies solely for storage." Iowa Code § 22.1(2).

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2. Does the law cover oral requests?

A request may be submitted in writing, by telephone, or by electronic means. While physical presence is not required to make a request, the lawful custodian may fulfill a request made in person. Iowa Code § 22.3(1).

"The rights of persons under this chapter may be exercised at any time during the customary office hours of the lawful custodian of the records. However, if the lawful custodian does not have customary office hours of at least thirty hours per week, such right may be exercised at any time from nine o'clock a.m. to noon and from one o'clock p.m. to four o'clock p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays, unless the person exercising such right and the lawful custodian agree on a different time." Iowa Code § 22.4.

Generally, county records have some discretion in issuing certified copies, but may not abuse that discretion and must act in good faith in refusing to issue such copies to an applicant. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 98-8-1, 1998 WL 698404 (Aug. 12, 1998). A lawful custodian may not refuse to permit the use of public records for purely commercial purposes. Op. Att’y Gen.No. 68-4-19, 1968 WL 172549 (Apr. 8, 1968). “Any aggrieved person, any taxpayer to or citizen of the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or any county attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of [Chapter 22].” Iowa Code § 22.10(1); see Diercks v. Malin, 894 N.W.2d 12, 16–17 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (bringing suit for injunctive relief when the City did not produce all requested documents and failed to make a claim of confidentiality, privilege, or exemption for the undisclosed materials).

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3. Contents of a written request

In your written request, include a specific description of the records. Offer to advance fees and inquire regarding likely cost. Iowa Code § 22.3.
If you need a quick response, explain why your plea for quick response is different from all such pleas. It is unlikely that the custodian will agree to continue the search as additional documents are filed in the future — another request will be necessary.
State agencies are required to define information policies. They must adopt rules which provide the following:
(a) "the nature and extent of the personally identifiable information collected by the agency, the legal authority for the collection of that information and a description of the means of storage;
(b) a description of which of its records are public records, which are confidential records and which are partially public and partially confidential records, and the legal authority for the confidentiality of the records. The description shall indicate whether the records contain personally identifiable information;
(c) the procedure for providing the public with access to public records;
(d) the procedures for allowing a person to review a government record about that person and have additions, dissents or objections entered in that record unless the review is prohibited by statute;
(e) the procedures by which the subject of a confidential record may have a copy of that record released to a named third party;
(f) the procedures by which the agency shall notify persons supplying information requested by the agency of the use that will be made of the information, which persons outside of the agency might routinely be provided this information, which parts of the information requested are required and which are optional and the consequences of failing to provide the information requested; and
(g) whether a data processing system matches, collates or permits the comparison of personally identifiable information in one record system with personally identifiable information in another record system."
Iowa Code § 22.11(1).

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B. How long to wait

"A reasonable delay for this purpose [i.e. to determine whether a confidential record is available for inspection and copying] should not exceed twenty calendar days and ordinarily should not exceed ten business days." Iowa Code § 22.8(4)(d). This deadline is not absolute. Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444, 461 (Iowa 2013). Rather, a government entity has twenty days to determine “whether a confidential record should be available for copying to the person requesting the right to do so.” Id. (quoting Iowa Code § 22.8(4)(d)). Once the determination has been made, access shall be granted as soon as feasible. Id. (quoting Iowa Uniform Rules on Agency Procedure, Fair Information Practices, Agency No.—X.3 (17A, 22)), available at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/Rules/Current/UniformRules.pdf.

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1. Statutory, regulatory or court-set time limits for agency response

2. Informal telephone inquiry as to status

3. Is delay recognized as a denial for appeal purposes?

4. Any other recourse to encourage a response

C. Administrative appeal

1. Time limit

The time limit for seeking judicial review of agency action is thirty days. Iowa Code § 17A.19(3). In the alternative, a party may seek rehearing before the agency pursuant to Iowa Code § 17A.16(2). The application for rehearing must be filed within twenty days of the agency's final decision. Id. Judicial review of a refusal to allow rehearing must be sought within thirty days of the date on which the application is denied or deemed denied. Iowa Code § 17A.19(3).

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2. To whom is an appeal directed?

Application for rehearing is directed to the agency whose final decision is challenged. Iowa Code § 17A.16.
Petition for judicial review is directed to the Iowa District Court for Polk County, or the county in which petitioner resides or has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 17A.19(2).
Action is filed by the party seeking to enforce the provision of chapter 17A or retained counsel for that party. If the agency is the party seeking judicial review, it is typically represented by the Iowa Attorney General.
Issues on appeal under chapter 17A are limited to whether substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the agency action is: (a) in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (b) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency; (c) in violation of an agency rule; (d) made upon unlawful procedure; (e) affected by other error of law; (f) in a contested case, unsupported by substantial evidence in the record made before the agency when that record is viewed as a whole; or (g) unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious or characterized by an abuse of discretion or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.
Iowa Code § 17A.19(10).

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3. Fee issues

Issues involving damages, injunctive relief, costs and fees heard at same time as claim of denial.

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4. Contents of appeal letter

"The petition for review shall name the agency as respondent and shall contain a concise statement of: (a) the nature of the agency action which is the subject of the petition; (b) the particular agency action appealed from; (c) the facts on which venue is based; (d) the grounds on which relief is sought; and (e) the relief sought." Iowa Code § 17A.19(4).

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5. Waiting for a response

Consult the local court administrator for an estimate of the likely hearing date.

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6. Subsequent remedies

If the district court remands the matter to the agency for further proceedings (see Iowa Code § 17A.19(10)), the matter will proceed according to agency procedure and the order of the court. Otherwise, no subsequent administrative remedies exist.

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D. Court action

1. Who may sue?

"Any aggrieved person, any taxpayer to or citizen of the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or any county attorney may seek judicial enforcement." Iowa Code § 22.10(1).

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2. Priority

Records actions are not afforded docket priority.

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3. Pro se

Proceeding pro se is possible, but not advisable. There are numerous procedural pitfalls; the issues are relatively technical; and the party whose records one seeks to review will always be represented by counsel.

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4. Issues the court will address

Whether defendant is subject to the requirements of chapter 22;

Whether the records in question are government records;

Whether defendant refused to make the records available; and

Whether defendant has demonstrated compliance with the requirements of chapter 22.

Iowa Code § 22.10(2) and (3); Diercks v. Malin, 894 N.W.2d 12, 18 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016).

Once a plaintiff shows the defendant is subject to the requirements of chapter 22, the records in question are government records, and the defendant refused to make those government records available, the defendant then has the burden of showing compliance by a preponderance of the evidence. Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444, 460 (Iowa 2013).

If a government agency does not act in good faith when denying access to public records, the court may impose attorney’s fees on the government agency. See City of Riverdale v. Diercks, 806 N.W.2d 643, 646 (Iowa 2011) (requiring the city to pay Diercks’ reasonable attorney fees because the court “found the City violated the statute by withholding the video and implicitly reject the City’s defense of a ‘good-faith, reasonable delay’ under section 22.8(4)”).

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a. Denial

b. Fees for records

c. Delays

d. Patterns for future access (declaratory judgment)

5. Pleading format

Pleading format is governed by the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure. See e.g., Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.401-1.423.

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6. Time limit for filing suit

The statute contains no limitations period. No Iowa case discussing limitation of actions in this context has been found. The applicable statute of limitations may be the five-year period for "all other actions not otherwise provided for" which can be found in Iowa Code § 614.1(4).

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7. What court

[D]istrict court for the county in which the lawful custodian has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 22.10(1).

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8. Judicial remedies available

1. The rights and remedies provided by this section are in addition to any rights and remedies provided by section 17A.19. Any aggrieved person, any taxpayer to or citizen of the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or any county attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of this chapter in an action brought against the lawful custodian and any other persons who would be appropriate defendants under the circumstances. Suits to enforce this chapter shall be brought in the district court for the county in which the lawful custodian has its principal place of business.

2. Once a party seeking judicial enforcement of this chapter demonstrates to the court that the defendant is subject to the requirements of this chapter, that the records in question are government records, and that the defendant refused to make those government records available for examination and copying by the plaintiff, the burden of going forward shall be on the defendant to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

3. Upon a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that a lawful custodian has violated any provision of this chapter, a court:

a. Shall issue an injunction punishable by civil contempt ordering the offending lawful custodian and other appropriate persons to comply with the requirements of this chapter in the case before it and, if appropriate, may order the lawful custodian and other appropriate persons to refrain for one year from any future violations of this chapter.

b. Shall assess the persons who participated in its violation damages in the amount of not more than five hundred dollars and not less than one hundred dollars. However, if a person knowingly participated in such a violation, damages shall be in the amount of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars and not less than one thousand dollars. These damages shall be paid by the court imposing them to the state of Iowa if the body in question is a state government body, or to the local government involved if the body in question is a local government body. A person found to have violated this chapter shall not be assessed such damages if that person proves that the person did any of the following:

(1) Voted against the action violating this chapter, refused to participate in the action violating this chapter, or engaged in reasonable efforts under the circumstances to resist or prevent the action in violation of this chapter.

(2) Had good reason to believe and in good faith believed facts which, if true, would have indicated compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

(3) Reasonably relied upon a decision of a court, a formal opinion of the attorney general, or the attorney for the government body, given in writing, or as memorialized in the minutes of the meeting at which a formal oral opinion was given, or an advisory opinion of the attorney general or the attorney for the government body, given in writing.

c. Shall order the payment of all costs and reasonable attorney fees, including appellate attorney fees, to any plaintiff successfully establishing a violation of this chapter in the action brought under this section. The costs and fees shall be paid by the particular persons who were assessed damages under paragraph "b" of this subsection. If no such persons exist because they have a lawful defense under that paragraph to the imposition of such damages, the costs and fees shall be paid to the successful plaintiff from the budget of the offending government body or its parent.

d. Shall issue an order removing a person from office if that person has engaged in a prior violation of this chapter for which damages were assessed against the person during the person's term.

4. Ignorance of the legal requirements of this chapter is not a defense to an enforcement proceeding brought under this section. A lawful custodian or its designee in doubt about the legality of allowing the examination or copying or refusing to allow the examination or copying of a government record is authorized to bring suit at the expense of that government body in the district court of the county of the lawful custodian's principal place of business, or to seek an opinion of the attorney general or the attorney for the lawful custodian, to ascertain the legality of any such action.
Iowa Code § 22.10.

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9. Litigation expenses

a. Attorney fees

Costs and fees shall be assessed.

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b. Court and litigation costs

Costs and fees shall be assessed to any plaintiff successfully establishing a violation of chapter 22. Iowa Code § 22.10(3)(c).  They may be imposed upon the particular persons who were assessed damages under section 22.10(3)(b). Id.

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10. Fines

Damages assessed in amounts that vary depending upon whether the violation was knowing. Iowa Code § 22.10(b).

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11. Other penalties

12. Settlement, pros and cons

Usually advisable but rarely a realistic option. There is little room for bargaining if the only acceptable resolution is allowing one to inspect and copy the records which the government refuses to produce.

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E. Appealing initial court decisions

1. Appeal routes

Appeal is taken by filing a notice with the clerk of court where judgment was entered. Iowa R. App. P. 6.102.

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2. Time limits for filing appeals

Appeal must be taken within thirty days of entry of judgment. Iowa R. App. P. Rule 6.101.

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3. Contact of interested amici

Iowa Freedom of Information Council, 118 Meredith Hall, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa 50311.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press often files amicus briefs in cases involving significant media law issues before a state's highest court.

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F. Addressing government suits against disclosure

There is no apparent case law on this topic.

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Open Meetings

The Iowa open meetings act, Iowa Code Chapter 21, became effective on July 1, 1967 and provides that the multimembered public bodies must conduct their business in the open and cannot take any final action behind closed doors.

The purpose of the original open meetings statute was "to prohibit secret or 'star chamber' sessions of public bodies, to require such meetings to be open and to permit the public to be present unless within the exceptions stated therein." Dobrovolny v. Reinhardt, 173 N.W.2d 837, 840-41 (Iowa 1970). Prior to enactment of the statute, the public had no right to attend the meetings of governmental bodies. See generally, 56 Am. Jur. 2d Municipal Corporations§ 161 (1971).

In 1979, the statute underwent comprehensive revision. H.F. 2074, 67th Gen. Assemb. ch. 1037 (Iowa 1978). As a part of this amendment, and perhaps in response to criticism of the earlier legislation, (see, e.g., The Iowa Open Meetings Act: A Lesson in Legislative Ineffectiveness, 62 Iowa L. Rev. 1108, 1114 (1977)), the legislature included a statement of intent and declaration of policy. It provided: “This chapter seeks to assure, through a requirement of open meetings of governmental bodies, that the basis and rationale of government decisions, as well as those decisions themselves, are easily accessible to the people. Ambiguity in the construction or application of this chapter should be resolved in favor of openness.” Iowa Code § 21.1.

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I. Statute - basic application

A. Who may attend?

All members of the public. Iowa Code § 21.2(3).

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B. What governments are subject to the law?

The statute applies to governments expressly created by the Iowa statutes or by executive order; the governing bodies of political subdivisions and tax supported districts in the state; multimembered bodies created by the boards of governing bodies subject to the act; multimembered bodies created by university presidents and the board of regents to manage intercollegiate athletics; advisory boards created by the governor or the general assembly; non-profit corporations supported by property tax revenue which are licensed to conduct wagering; and non-profit corporations licensed to conduct gambling. Iowa Code § 21.2(1)(a)-(j).

Note: Only members of the governmental body conducting the meeting are subject to the provisions of the open meetings act. Barrett v. Lode, 603 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Iowa 1999); see City of Postville v. Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Comm’n, 834 N.W.2d 1, 7–8 (Iowa 2013) (citing Iowa Code § 28H.4(2)) (finding a volunteer is not personally liable under the open meetings act unless they knowingly or intentionally violated the act or they would derive improper personal benefit from the violation).

Chapter 21 clearly reaches only those meetings at which the governmental body deliberates or acts in a "policy-making" role. Hutchison v. Shull, 878 N.W.2d 221, 232 (Iowa 2016) (highlighting that a meeting requires deliberation and that deliberation must occur when the members are in temporal proximity to one another). A negotiating committee that has only an advisory function, and no policy-making duties, is not required to hold meetings that are open to the public. Mason v. Vision Iowa Bd., 700 N.W.2d 349 (Iowa 2005) (negotiating committee of Vision Iowa Board, a board created by the legislature to assist local communities with development of tourism opportunities, not required to hold public meetings). See Olinger v. Smith, 892 N.W.2d 775, 781 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (finding a gathering may be “purely ministerial” if the members of a governmental body assemble simply to receive information without discussing policy but the meetings are no longer “purely ministerial” if deliberation ensues).

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1. State

The statute applies. While state government is created, not by statute, but by constitutional provision (Iowa Const. Arts. III, IV and V), the state has never sought to argue that it is exempt from compliance.

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2. County

County governments are statutory creatures. See generally Iowa Code Chapter 331 (County Home Rule Implementation). Accordingly, they are subject to the open meetings law.

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3. Local or municipal

Municipal governments are also statutory creatures. See generally Iowa Code Chapter 372 (organization of city government). Accordingly, they are subject to the open meetings law.

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C. What bodies are covered by the law?

Iowa Code § 21.2(10) defines “government body” as including a “multimembered body formally and directly created by one or more boards . . . .”  Iowa Code § 21.2(1)(c) extends the statutory meaning of “government body” to committees of a board if they are “formally and directly created.”

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1. Executive branch agencies

"Governmental" bodies are covered by the statute. Iowa Code § 21.3. See also Iowa Code § 21.2(1), (2).

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a. What officials are covered?

Executive branch agencies are expressly created by statute. See e.g., Iowa Code Chapter 84 (Department of Workforce Development) and 94 (Employment Service Agencies). Accordingly, they are covered by the statute. No statutory provision limits the particular executives, e.g. governor, mayors, etc., to which chapter 21 applies.

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b. Are certain executive functions covered?

No statutory provision limits application to specified executive functions such as serving on city council, voting to break a tie, or exercising a veto.

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c. Are only certain agencies subject to the act?

No statutory provision limits coverage to certain agencies.

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2. Legislative bodies

The Iowa legislature is a constitutional creation, not a statutory creation. Iowa Const. Art. IV. The statute covers only governing bodies created by statute or executive order, and those bodies specifically enumerated in Iowa Code § 21.2.

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3. Courts

The courts, like the legislature, are created by the constitution. Iowa Const. Art. V. The judiciary is not, therefore, included within the definition of governmental bodies. As a general rule, however, court proceedings are open to the public.

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4. Nongovernmental bodies receiving public funds or benefits

The statute has no application to non-governmental bodies or groups.

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5. Nongovernmental groups whose members include governmental officials

The statute has no application to non-governmental bodies or groups.

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6. Multi-state or regional bodies

Not addressed.

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7. Advisory boards and commissions, quasi-governmental entities

Only those advisory groups statutorily specified by the legislature are required to hold public meetings. Mason v. Vision Iowa Bd., 700 N.W.2d 349, 356 (Iowa 2005). Groups without any policy-making power may not be required to have open meetings. See Donahue v. State, 474 N.W.2d 537, 539 (Iowa 1991) (finding an administrative panel comprised of university faculty members to review promotion decisions was not a “governmental body” because it exercised no policy-making power and its findings were not binding on the board of regents); Hummel v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., No. 08-0763, 2009 WL 777929, at *7 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2009) (affirming district court finding that the review committee’s meetings were not subject to open meetings law where the committee did not have any policy-making duties). The Act applies to "governmental bodies." Governmental bodies include:

(1) A board, council, commission or other governing body expressly created by the statutes of this state or by executive order.

(2) A board, council, commission, or other governing body of a political subdivision or tax-supported district in this state.

(3) A multimembered body formally and directly created by one or more boards, councils, commissions, or other governing bodies subject to paragraphs "a" and "b" of this subsection.

(4) Those multimembered bodies to which the state board of regents or a president of a university has delegated the responsibility for the management and control of the intercollegiate athletic programs at the state universities.

(5) An advisory board, advisory commission, or task force created by the governor or the general assembly to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.

(6) An advisory board, advisory commission, advisory committee, task force, or other body created by statute or executive order of this state or created by an executive order of a political subdivision of this state to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.

(7) The governing body of a drainage or levee district as provided in chapter 468, including a board as defined in section 468.3, regardless of how the district is organized.

(8) An advisory board, advisory commission, advisory committee, task force, or other body created by an entity organized under chapter 28E, or by the administrator or joint board specified in a chapter 28E agreement, to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.

Iowa Code § 21.2.  See also Hettinga v. Dallas Cty. Bd. of Adjustment, 375 N.W.2d 293, 295 (Iowa App. 1985) ("The Dallas County Board of Adjustment is certainly a 'governmental body' within the definition of section 22.2(1)(b)."); Wedergren v. Bd. of Dirs., 307 N.W.2d 12 (Iowa 1981) (School board).

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8. Other bodies to which governmental or public functions are delegated

(1) A nonprofit corporation other than a county or district fair or agricultural society, whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D or a nonprofit corporation which is a successor to the nonprofit corporation which built the facility.

(2) A nonprofit corporation licensed to conduct gambling games pursuant to chapter 99F.

But see 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 148, 153 (May 4, 1979) (Peer Review Committee of Board of Engineering Examiners is not a governmental body because there is no delegation of governmental authority).

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9. Appointed as well as elected bodies

No statutory distinction is made between elected and appointed officials.

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D. What constitutes a meeting subject to the law

A “meeting” under Iowa Code § 21.2(2) encompasses all gatherings, formal or informal, where a majority of the members deliberate or take action within the scope of their policy-making duties.  See Op. Atty. Gen. (Pellett) May 16, 1979. In Hutchison v. Shull, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a meeting can occur even if a majority of the board or council members are not physically or electronically present if instead, a majority of the board members are present either personally or through an agent. 878 N.W.2d 221, 234 (Iowa 2016). The requirements of open meetings law applies if the majority of board or council members gather either in-person, electronically, or through agents to deliberate any matter within the scope of its policy-making duties. Id.

Iowa Code § 21.2(3) defines “open session” as a meeting “to which all members of the public have access.”  A closed meeting thus is one where members of the public are excluded from a gathering of a majority of a board or committee where the acts or duties of the members involve discussion and evaluative processes in reaching a decision.  See Op. Atty. Gen. (Pellett) May 16, 1979.  A closed session is any meeting of a government body to which a member of the public is denied access.  See Op. Atty. Gen (Dooley), October 2, 1979.

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1. Number that must be present

"Meeting means a gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body's policy-making duties. Meetings shall not include a gathering of members of a governmental body for purely ministerial or social purposes when there is not discussion of policy or no intent to avoid the purposes of this chapter." Iowa Code § 21.2(2) (emphasis added).

Attendance of a majority of members is necessary; otherwise, there is no meeting. Id.; Gavin v. City of Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993) (finding no meeting had occurred where there was never a majority of the council present); 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 164, 165 (May 16, 1979); see Hutchison v. Shull, 878 N.W.2d 221, 241 (Iowa 2016) (Waterman, J., dissenting) (citing Wedergren v. Bd. of Dirs., 307 N.W.2d 12, 18 (Iowa 1981)) (“We thereby squarely rejected the theory that serial meetings or discussions between fewer than a majority of the board can violate the open meetings law).

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a. Must a minimum number be present to constitute a "meeting"?

Yes, there must be a majority present. E.g., Iowa Code § 21.2(2); Gavin v. City of Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993) (finding no meeting had occurred where there was never a majority of the council present).

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b. What effect does absence of a quorum have?

Without a quorum, there is no meeting as defined by the statute. Iowa Code § 21.2(2).

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2. Nature of business subject to the law

a. "Information gathering" and "fact-finding" sessions

"Activities of a governmental body's individual members to secure information to be reported and acted upon at an open meeting ordinarily do not violate sunshine statutes." Tel. Herald, Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529, 534 (Iowa 1980).

Business sessions must be "within the scope of the governmental body's policy-making duties." Iowa Code § 21.2(2). "[P]urely ministerial" functions are excluded "when there is no discussion of policy or intent to avoid the purpose [of the statute]." Id. A ministerial act is one which does not involve an exercise of discretion or judgment. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 164, 166 (May 16, 1979). "[G]athering for 'purely ministerial' purposes may include a situation in which members of a governmental body gather simply to receive information." 82 Op. Att'y Gen. 423, 426 (May 25, 1982). The ministerial gatherings of the open meetings act exception does not apply where policy matters are discussed.  Tel. Herald, Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529 (Iowa 1980).

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b. Deliberation toward decisions

The statute covers "deliberation or action" of public bodies. Iowa Code § 21.2(2)(emphasis added). Deliberation connotes discussion and evaluation. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 164, 166 (May 16, 1979).

"The statute only applies to a gathering of a majority of the members of a governmental body . . . . Activities of a governmental body's individual members to secure information to be reported and acted upon at an open meeting ordinarily do not violate the statute. " Gavin v. City of Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729, 732 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993) (citing Wedergren v. Bd. of Dirs., 307 N.W.2d 12, 18 (Iowa 1981); Tel. Herald Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529, 534 (Iowa 1980)). Similarly, the court in Fleener v. City of Oskaloosa held that a city, county, mayor, and respective board and council members did not violate the Iowa Open Meetings law when each met or conversed with a board member in order to sign a letter. No. 09-0230, 2009 WL 4115658 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 25, 2009). The individual in charge of sending a letter to a neighboring city about constructing an airport contacted board and council members individually to obtain their signatures. Id. at *2. The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the separate phone calls and e-mails amounted to serial communication resulting in deliberation. Id. at *4-5. Moreover, the court noted there was no evidence that any deliberation or action that would constitute a meeting occurred in the contacts between the various board and council members. Id.

In Dooley v. Johnson County Board of Supervisors, the court found there was no meeting where deliberations did not occur. No. 08-0915, 2008 WL 5234382, at *5 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 17, 2008). The meetings in this case sought “feedback, opinions, and input from the members on the draft” but there was substantial evidence that no deliberation occurred. Id.

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3. Electronic meetings

1. A governmental body may conduct a meeting by electronic means only in circumstances where such a meeting in person is impossible or impractical and only if the governmental body complies with all of the following:

a. The governmental body provides public access to the conversation of the meeting to the extent reasonably possible.

b. The governmental body complies with section 21.4. For the purpose of this paragraph, the place of the meeting is the place from which the communication originates or where public access is provided to the conversation.

c. Minutes are kept of the meeting. The minutes shall include a statement explaining why a meeting in person was impossible or impractical.

2. A meeting conducted in compliance with this section shall not be considered in violation of this chapter.

3. A meeting by electronic means may be conducted without complying with paragraph “a” of subsection 1 if conducted in accordance with all of the requirements for a closed session contained in section 21.5.

Iowa Code § 21.8.

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a. Conference calls and video/Internet conferencing

Meetings are "in person or by electronic means."

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b. E-mail

A “meeting” under Iowa Code § 21.2(2) encompasses all gatherings, formal or informal, where a majority of the members deliberate or take action within the scope of their policy-making duties.  See Op. Atty. Gen. (Pellett) May 16, 1979. In Hutchison v. Shull, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a meeting can occur even if a majority of the board or council members are not physically or electronically present if instead, a majority of the board members are present either personally or through an agent. 878 N.W.2d 221, 234 (Iowa 2016). The requirements of open meetings law applies if the majority of board or council members gather either in-person, electronically, or through agents to deliberate any matter within the scope of its policy-making duties. Id.; see also Fleener v. City of Oskaloosa, No. 09-0230, 2009 WL 4115658, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 25, 2009) (rejecting plaintiff’s argument that separate phone and email contacts “amounted to serial communications resulting in deliberation, such that a meeting occurred”).

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c. Text messages

Not unless the system would permit "a gathering."

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d. Instant messaging

Not unless the system would permit "a gathering."

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e. Social media and online discussion boards

Not unless the system would permit "a gathering."

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E. Categories of meetings subject to the law

1. Regular meetings

a. Definition

The statute does not distinguish between regular and other types of meetings. It applies to gatherings "in person or by electronic means, formal or informal." Iowa Code § 21.2(2).

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b. Notice

1. Except as provided in subsection 3, a governmental body shall give notice of the time, date, and place of each meeting including a reconvened meeting of the governmental body, and the tentative agenda of the meeting, in a manner reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information. Reasonable notice shall include advising the news media who have filed a request for notice with the governmental body and posting the notice on a bulletin board or other prominent place which is easily accessible to the public and clearly designated for that purpose at the principal office of the body holding the meeting, or if no such office exists, at the building in which the meeting is to be held.

2. a. Notice conforming with all of the requirements of subsection 1 of this section shall be given at least twenty-four hours prior to the commencement of any meeting of a governmental body unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case as much notice as is reasonably possible shall be given. Each meeting shall be held at a place reasonably accessible to the public, and at a time reasonably convenient to the public, unless for good cause such a place or time is impossible or impractical. Special access to the meeting may be granted to persons with disabilities.

b. When it is necessary to hold a meeting on less than twenty-four hours' notice, or at a place that is not reasonably accessible to the public, or at a time that is not reasonably convenient to the public, the nature of the good cause justifying that departure from the normal requirements shall be stated in the minutes.

3. Subsection 1 does not apply to any of the following:

a. A meeting reconvened within four hours of the start of its recess, where an announcement of the time, date, and place of the reconvened meeting is made at the original meeting in open session and recorded in the minutes of the meeting and there is no change in the agenda.

b. A meeting held by a formally constituted subunit of a parent governmental body during a lawful meeting of the parent governmental body or during a recess in that meeting of up to four hour, or a meeting of that subunit immediately following the meeting of the parent governmental body, if the meeting of that subunit is publicly announced in open session at the parent meeting and the subject of the meeting reasonably coincides with the subjects discussed or acted upon by the parent governmental body.

4. If another section of the Code requires a manner of giving specific notice of a meeting, hearing, or an intent to take action by a governmental body, compliance with that section shall constitute compliance with the notice requirements of this section.

Iowa Code § 21.4.

Notice must include a "tentative agenda." Id. While this tentative agenda may be amended, it may not be amended within twenty-four hours of the meeting, absent good cause. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 269, 270 (July 6, 1979). "[A] proper construction of the notice provision in section 21.4 allows discussion and action on emergency items that are first ascertained at a meeting for which proper notice was given." KCOB/KLVN v. Jasper Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171, 174 (Iowa 1991). The issue, in determining the adequacy of notice, is: "whether the notice sufficiently apprised the public and gave full opportunity for public knowledge and participation." KCOB/KLVN v. Jasper Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171, 173 (Iowa 1991); Barrett v. Lode, 603 N.W.2d 766 (Iowa 1999). "The adequacy of a notice is determined by what the words in the agenda would mean to a typical citizen or member of the press." Vandaele v. Board of Educ. ex rel. Wapsie Valley Cmty. Sch. Dist., No. 01-0234, 2002 WL 575666, at * 3 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 13, 2002).

Although the wording in the enforcement section of the statute emphasizes enforcement against illegally closed sessions, it specifically provides that a court may act when it finds “by a preponderance of the evidence that a governmental body has violated any provision of this chapter." Iowa Code § 21.6(3). However, in order for a court action to be brought, the party seeking judicial enforcement must first show that the governmental body is subject to the open meetings law and that it "has held a closed session." Iowa Code § 21.6(2). In addition, the court has held that "even though notice is an important tool utilized to accomplish openness, it is not the primary purpose of chapter 21." KCOB/KLVN v. Jasper Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171, 173 (Iowa 1991).

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c. Minutes

"Each governmental body shall keep minutes of all its meetings showing the date, time and place, the members present, and the action taken at each meeting. The minutes shall show the results of each vote taken and the vote of each member present shall be made public at the open session. The minutes shall be public records open to public inspection." Iowa Code § 21.3. Members of the public are entitled to examine and copy minutes of open meetings. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 88, 94 (April 20, 1979).

Note: Municipal Hospital Board not required to publish its minutes in local newspaper. Op. Att'y Gen. (March 5, 1993).

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2. Special or emergency meetings

a. Definition

There is no provision in the statute for a special or emergency meeting as such. However, meetings on less than twenty-four hours’ notice are clearly contemplated by the statute. See Iowa Code § 21.4(2).

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b. Notice requirements

"[A]s much notice as is reasonably possible shall be given." Iowa Code § 21.4(2). There are no requirements separate from those imposed upon "regular" meetings.

Although the wording in the enforcement section of the statute emphasizes enforcement against illegally closed sessions, it specifically provides that a court may act when it finds "that a governmental body has violated any provision of this chapter." Iowa Code § 21.6(3). However, in order for a court action to be brought, the party seeking judicial enforcement must first show that the governmental body is subject to the open meetings law and that it "has held a closed session." Iowa Code § 21.6(2). In addition, the court has held that "even though notice is an important tool utilized to accomplish openness, it is not the primary purpose of chapter 21." KCOB/KLVN v. Jasper Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171, 173 (Iowa 1991).

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c. Minutes

"Each governmental body shall keep minutes of all its meetings showing the date, time and place, the members present, and the action taken at each meeting. The minutes shall show the results of each vote taken and the vote of each member present shall be made public at the open session. The minutes shall be public records open to public inspection." Iowa Code § 21.3. Members of the public are entitled to examine and copy minutes of open meetings. 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 88, 94 (April 20, 1979).

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3. Closed meetings or executive sessions

a. Definition

"[A] meeting, as defined in Sec. 28A.2(2) [now Sec. 21.2(2)], to which any member of the public is denied access by a governmental body." 79 Op. Att'y Gen. 430, 432 (Oct. 2, 1979).

If the purpose of the meeting is to “discuss strategy with counsel,” counsel must be present. Olinger v. Smith, 889 N.W.2d 476, 483 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015).

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b. Notice requirements

No additional notice requirements are imposed, simply because the governmental body intends to hold a closed session. There are no requirements separate from those imposed upon "regular" meetings. Twenty-four hours’ notice must be provided to (a) the public; (b) news media who have filed a request for notice with the governmental body. Iowa Code § 21.4(1).

Notice must be posted “on a bulletin board or other prominent place which is easily accessible to the public and clearly designated for that purpose at the principal office of the body holding the meeting, or if not such office exists, at the building in which the meeting is to be held." Iowa Code § 21.4(1).

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c. Minutes

The vote of each member on the question of holding a closed session and the reason for holding the closed session by reference to a specific statutory provision must be entered in the minutes. Iowa Code § 21.5(2).

"The detailed minutes and tape recording of a closed session shall be sealed and shall not be public records open to public inspection." Iowa Code § 21.5(4). But see Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(j) ("The minutes and the tape recording of a session closed under this paragraph shall be available for public examination when the transaction discussed [a real estate purchase] is completed.").

Sealed records of closed session available only in enforcement action, or in discovery after trial court weighs the statute providing for sealed records against the discovery rule allowing an adverse party access to information. Fettkether v. City of Readlyn, 595 N.W.2d 807, 815 (Iowa App. 1999). See also, Tausz v. Clarion-Goldfield Cmty. Sch. Dist., 569 N.W.2d 125, 127 (Iowa 1997) ("A special need for relevant evidence by a party engaged in litigation with the public agency and seeking discovery under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 122(a) may be accommodated by court-ordered disclosure to that party of relevant portions of the otherwise confidential record.").

A court determination under section 21.5(4) that minutes or recording of a closed meeting must be disclosed to a party seeking enforcement of the Iowa open meetings act is not a determination that a violation of the act has occurred. Olinger v. Smith, 889 N.W.2d 476, 479 n.1 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015).

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d. Requirement to meet in public before closing meeting

"The vote of each member on the question of holding the closed session . . . shall be announced publicly at the open session." Iowa Code § 21.5(2).

See Barrett v. Lode, 603 N.W.2d 766, 771 (Iowa 1999) (suggesting to a reporter that a session was about to be closed in order to force him to leave may violate the act).

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e. Requirement to state statutory authority for closing meetings before closure

"[T]he reason for holding the closed session by reference to a specific exemption under this section [§ 21.5(2)] shall be announced publicly at the open session." Iowa Code § 21.5(2).

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f. Tape recording requirements

"A governmental body shall . . . tape record all of the closed session." Iowa Code § 21.5(5).

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F. Recording/broadcast of meetings

Sound and photographic recordings are allowed. "The public may use cameras or recording devices at any open session." Public bodies may make rules to keep meetings "orderly, and free from interference." Iowa Code § 21.7.

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1. Sound recordings allowed

Sound and photographic recordings are allowed. "The public may use cameras or recording devices at any open session." Public bodies may make rules to keep meetings "orderly, and free from interference." Iowa Code § 21.7.

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2. Photographic recordings allowed

Sound and photographic recordings are allowed. "The public may use cameras or recording devices at any open session." Public bodies may make rules to keep meetings "orderly, and free from interference." Iowa Code § 21.7.

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G. Access to meeting materials, reports and agendas

The minutes taken at open meetings “shall be public records open to public inspection.” Iowa Code § 21.3.  Minutes taken at closed meetings are not subject to public inspection unless court order has been granted. Iowa Code § 21.5.

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H. Are there sanctions for noncompliance?

For violations of the open meetings law, each member of a government body may be fined between $100 and $500. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(a). A member can establish his innocence by showing he voted against a closed meeting, had good reason to believe the closure was in compliance with the law, or relied on an official opinion from a court, the state Attorney General or the body’s attorney. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(a). The offending members may also be forced to pay attorney’s fees to a party who successfully challenges the closure. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(b); Ollinger v. Smith, 889 N.W.2d 476, 480 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015) (“Section 21.6(3)(b) mandates the award of attorney fees to a party successfully establishing a violation of IOMA.”). If an official has previously violated the open meetings law and required to pay damages, that official will be removed from his position. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(d). Action taken in a closed meeting may be voided by a court. Iowa Code Ann. § 21.6(3)(c).

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A. Exemptions in the open meetings statute

1. Character of exemptions

The exemptions are specific; and public interest is not a statutory factor which governmental bodies must consider in determining whether a closed session would be appropriate. See Hutchison v. Shull, 878 N.W.2d 221, 237- 38 (Iowa 2016) (noting that the district court may balance the public interest in the enforcement of the policy of chapter 21 against the public interest in upholding the validity of the closed session, but the court should determine whether the meeting complied with the open meetings requirements).

"Nothing in this section requires a governmental body to hold a closed session to discuss or act upon any matter." Iowa Code § 21.5(5).

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2. Description of each exemption

1. A governmental body may hold a closed session only by affirmative public vote of either two-thirds of the members of the body or all of the members present at the meeting. A governmental body may hold a closed session only to the extent a closed session is necessary for any of the following reasons:

a. To review or discuss records which are required or authorized by state or federal law to be kept confidential or to be kept confidential as a condition for that governmental body's possession or continued receipt of federal funds.

b. To discuss application for letters patent.

c. To discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent where its disclosure would be likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation.

d. To discuss the contents of a licensing examination or whether to initiate licensee disciplinary investigations or proceedings if the governmental body is a licensing or examining board.

e. To discuss whether to conduct a hearing or to conduct hearings to suspend or expel a student, unless an open session is requested by the student or a parent or guardian of the student if the student is a minor.

f. To discuss the decision to be rendered in a contested case conducted according to the provisions of chapter 17A.

g. To avoid disclosure of specific law enforcement matters, such as current or proposed investigations, inspection or auditing techniques or schedules, which if disclosed would enable law violators to avoid detection.

h. To avoid disclosure of specific law enforcement matters, such as allowable tolerances or criteria for the selection, prosecution, or settlement of cases, which if disclosed would facilitate disregard of requirements imposed by law.

i. To evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance, or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual's reputation and that individual requests a closed session.

j. To discuss the purchase or sale of particular real estate only where premature disclosure could be reasonably expected to increase the price the governmental body would have to pay for that property or reduce the price the governmental body would receive for that property. The minutes and the audio recording of a session closed under this paragraph shall be available for public examination when the transaction discussed is completed.

k. To discuss information contained in records in the custody of a governmental body that are confidential records pursuant to section 22.7, subsection 50.

l. To discuss patient care quality and process improvement initiatives in a meeting of a public hospital or to discuss marketing and pricing strategies or similar proprietary information in a meeting of a public hospital, where public disclosure of such information would harm such a hospital's competitive position when no public purpose would be served by public disclosure. The minutes and the audio recording of a closed session under this paragraph shall be available for public inspection when the public disclosure would no longer harm the hospital's competitive position. For purposes of this paragraph, “public hospital” means a hospital licensed pursuant to chapter 135B and governed pursuant to chapter 145A, 226, 347, 347A, or 392. This paragraph does not apply to the information required to be disclosed pursuant to section 347.13, subsection 11, or to any discussions relating to terms or conditions of employment, including but not limited to compensation of an officer or employee or group of officers or employees.2. The vote of each member on the question of holding the closed session and the reason for holding the closed session by reference to a specific exemption under this section shall be announced publicly at the open session and entered in the minutes. A governmental body shall not discuss any business during a closed session which does not directly relate to the specific reason announced as justification for the closed session.

3. Final action by any governmental body on any matter shall be taken in an open session unless some other provision of the Code expressly permits such actions to be taken in closed session.

4. A governmental body shall not exclude a member of the governmental body from attending a closed session, unless the member's attendance at the closed session creates a conflict of interest for the member due to the specific reason announced as justification for holding the closed session.

5. a. A governmental body shall keep detailed minutes of all discussion, persons present, and action occurring at a closed session, and shall also audio record all of the closed session.

b. (1) The detailed minutes and audio recording of a closed session shall be sealed and shall not be public records open to public inspection. However, upon order of the court in an action to enforce this chapter, the detailed minutes and audio recording shall be unsealed and examined by the court in camera. The court shall then determine what part, if any, of the minutes should be disclosed to the party seeking enforcement of this chapter for use in that enforcement proceeding. In determining whether any portion of the minutes or recording shall be disclosed to such a party for this purpose, the court shall weigh the prejudicial effects to the public interest of the disclosure of any portion of the minutes or recording in question, against its probative value as evidence in an enforcement proceeding. After such a determination, the court may permit inspection and use of all or portions of the detailed minutes and audio recording by the party seeking enforcement of this chapter. A governmental body shall keep the detailed minutes and audio recording of any closed session for a period of at least one year from the date of that meeting, except as otherwise required by law.

(2) This paragraph “b” does not require the office of ombudsman to obtain a court order to examine the detailed minutes and audio recording of a closed session when such examination is relevant to an investigation under chapter 2C and the information sought is not available through other reasonable means. Any portion of the minutes or recording released by a governmental body to the office of ombudsman shall remain confidential pursuant to section 2C.9.

6. Nothing in this section requires a governmental body to hold a closed session to discuss or act upon any matter.
Iowa Code § 21.5

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B. Any other statutory requirements for closed or open meetings

There are no other Iowa statutes which deal solely with the public nature of meetings involving governmental bodies. Instead, individual chapters of the code contain individual provisions specific to those chapters.

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C. Court mandated opening, closing

No decision creating new, non-statutory exemptions has been found. Court decisions concerning the propriety of closing specific meetings are discussed throughout the materials.

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III. Meeting categories - open or closed

A. Adjudications by administrative bodies

Oral proceedings in contested cases are open to the public. Iowa Code § 17A.12(7).
All final orders, decisions and opinions are available for public inspection, except to the extent necessary to prevent clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy or trade secrets. Iowa Code § 17A.3(1)(d).

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1. Deliberations closed, but not fact-finding

Under Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(f), the Davenport Civil Rights Commission acted lawfully when it conducted closed meetings to deliberate an employee's harassment claim. Botsko v. Davenport Civ. Rights Comm'n, 774 N.W.2d 841 (Iowa 2009). There is no procedural due process violation based solely upon the overlapping investigatory and adjudicatory roles of agency actors. Id. at 849.

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2. Only certain adjudications closed, i.e. under certain statutes

B. Budget sessions

The open meetings statute does not address budget sessions, per se. If the other criteria of the statute are satisfied, e.g., majority, deliberation, etc., it would appear that the statute requires the meeting to be open. But see KCOB/KLVN, Inc. v. Jasper Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171, 175 (Iowa 1991) (suggesting the city’s budget sessions that were closed may have violated chapter 21 had they not been purely ministerial in nature).

State government. Upon receipt of the tentative budget, the governor must make provision for public hearings. Iowa Code § 8.26.

Local government. Public hearing after estimates filed with clerk. Iowa Code § 24.9.

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C. Business and industry relations

No Iowa statutes governing open meetings between governmental bodies and private business have been found. However, to the extent such meetings would involve sensitive business information, the meetings would probably be closed to the public under Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a). Cf. Iowa Code § 22.7(8) (records and information about industrial prospects with whom state is in negotiations confidential).

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D. Federal programs

No Iowa statutes governing open meetings, and discussing participation in federal programs, have been found. It should be noted that meetings to discuss records required or authorized by federal law to be kept confidential are not open to the public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a).

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E. Financial data of public bodies

The open meetings statute does not address the discussion of financial data, per se. If the other criteria of the statute are satisfied, e.g., majority, deliberation, etc., it would appear that the statute requires the meeting to be open.

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F. Financial data, trade secrets, or proprietary data of private corporations and individuals

The financial data, trade secrets and proprietary data of private corporations and individuals are confidential. Iowa Code §§ 22.7(3), (6) and (8). Meetings to discuss records which are confidential need not be held in public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a).

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G. Gifts, trusts and honorary degrees

No provision of the open meetings statute exempts discussion of gifts, trusts and honorary degrees from public attendance. Iowa Code chapter 68B requires the preparation of disclosure reports. See Iowa Code § 68B.2 (“‘Public disclosure’ means a written report filed by a person as required by this chapter or required by rules adopted and issued pursuant to this chapter.”); Iowa Code § 68B.22 (noting reporting requirements for specific gifts); Iowa Code § 68B.35A (requiring personal financial disclosure filed with the chief clerk of the house or the secretary of the senate to be recorded on the legislative internet site); Iowa Code § 68B.39 (authorizing the supreme court to prescribe rules relating to the receipt or acceptance of gifts financial disclosure).

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H. Grand jury testimony by public employees

Grand jury proceedings are confidential. Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.3(4)(d).

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I. Licensing examinations

While no Iowa statute governing the open/closed nature of licensing examination sessions has been found, it is unlikely that members of the public would be allowed to attend. Most such examinations are confidential. See e.g., Iowa Code §§ 542B.32 (engineers), 147.37 (nursing home administrators), and 544A.27 (architects); meetings to discuss confidential records need not be held in public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a).

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J. Litigation, pending litigation or other attorney-client privileges

Certain strategy discussions of public bodies involving litigation can be closed.

  1. No Iowa statutes governing the question of whether members of the public may attend proceedings outside the courtroom, e.g. depositions, in actions between or involving governmental bodies have been found. As a general rule, protective orders are available to protect parties from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, and undue burden and expense. Under appropriate circumstances, the order may provide that the proceeding be conducted with no person present who is not designated by the court. Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.504.
  2. As a general rule, judicial proceedings are subject to request for expanded media coverage, including broadcasting, televising, electronic recording or photographs of judicial proceedings. Iowa Ct. R. 25.1, 25.2.

A request for expanded media coverage will be denied:

(1) when the court finds coverage would materially interfere with their right to a fair trial;

(2) upon showing of good cause by witness;

(3) in sexual abuse cases during the testimony of a victim/witness;

(4) if the victim/witness in any forcible felony objects;

(5) where police informants and undercover agents are involved;

(6) in proceedings made private by other provisions of Iowa law;

(7) when the proceedings involves juvenile, dissolution, adoption, child custody or trade secret questions; and

(8) during jury selection.

Iowa Ct. R. 25.2

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K. Negotiations and collective bargaining of public employees

1. Any sessions regarding collective bargaining

Negotiating sessions, strategy meetings, and mediation and deliberation process of arbitrators are closed to the public. Iowa Code § 20.17(3). “The terms of a proposed collective bargaining agreement shall be made available to the public . . . .” Iowa Code § 20.17(4).

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2. Only those between the public employees and the public body

The initial and second bargaining sessions, however, and arbitration hearings, are open to the public. Iowa Code § 20.17(3).

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L. Parole board meetings, or meetings involving parole board decisions

Corrections information is confidential. Iowa Code § 246.602(2). Meetings to discuss records which are confidential need not be held in public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a). But see 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 415 (January 21, 1976) (Board of Parole subject to chapter 28A — now chapter 21).

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M. Patients, discussions on individual patients

Hospital records, including patient and former patient information, are confidential. Iowa Code § 22.7(2). Meetings to discuss records which are confidential need not be held in public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a).

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N. Personnel matters

1. Interviews for public employment

Dependent upon whether closed session necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to reputation and individual request for closed session. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(i). See Tel. Herald, Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529, 533–34 (Iowa 1980) (holding interviews with applicants for position of city manager, conducted by one or two city council members on one-to-one basis, did not constitute meetings subject to open meetings law, especially as council members were, at all times, acting reasonably on their corporation counsel's advice that such actions were not subject to open meetings law).

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2. Disciplinary matters, performance or ethics of public employees

Dependent upon whether closed session necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to reputation and individual request for closed session. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(i).

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3. Dismissal, considering dismissal of public employees

Dependent upon whether closed session necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to reputation and individual request for closed session. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(i); see Feller v. Scott Cty. Civil Svc. Comm’n, 435 N.W.2d 387 (Iowa Ct. App. 1988) (finding county civil service commission's denial of former deputy sheriff's request for closed hearing concerning circumstances of deputy sheriff's resignation was improper; exposure of allegations against deputy sheriff to public would cause needless and irreparable injury to deputy sheriff's reputation within community particularly in light of fact that there was no evidence that such allegations had anything to do with his job performance).

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O. Real estate negotiations

Only where premature disclosure could be reasonably expected to increase the price the governmental body would have to pay for that property or reduce the price the governmental body would receive for that property. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(j).

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P. Security, national and/or state, of buildings, personnel or other

Information concerning procedures used to control disturbances at adult correctional facilities is confidential. Iowa Code § 22.7(15). Documents concerning homeland security are confidential pursuant to Iowa Code § 22.7(45).  Meetings to discuss records which are confidential need not be held in public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a). No other Iowa statutes governing open meetings on the subject of security have been found.

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Q. Students, discussions on individual students

Confidential: a. when concerning suspension or expulsion, Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(e); b. to the extent necessary to receive federal funds, Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a); 20 U.S.C. §1232g.

In a hearing regarding appeal of student suspension, student right to request open session under § 21.5(1)(e) is paramount, regardless of the fact that teacher's aide who was disciplined for the same incident requested closed session under § 21.5(1)(i). Schumacher v. Lisbon Sch. Bd., 582 N.W.2d 183, 185-86 (Iowa 1998).

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IV. Procedure for asserting right of access

A. When to challenge

1. Does the law provide expedited procedure for reviewing request to attend upcoming meetings?

No procedure exists for expediting review of challenge to upcoming meeting.

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2. When barred from attending

Not specified.

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3. To set aside decision

Suit under chapter 21 must be brought within six months of alleged violation if complainant seeks to void action taken. Iowa Code § 21.6(3)(c).

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4. For ruling on future meetings

Not specified.

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5. Other

An administrative action must be commenced within thirty days of the agency's final decision in a contested case. Iowa Code § 17A.19(3).

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B. How to start

1. Where to ask for ruling

No docket priority is afforded this type of action, whether brought in the form of a direct challenge under chapter 21, or as an action seeking judicial review under chapter 17A.

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a. Administrative forum

Judicial review of agency action is available pursuant to Iowa Code § 17A.19. Any suit brought pursuant to chapter 17A must be brought in the district court in Polk County or in the district court in the county where petitioner resides or has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 17A.19(2).
A chapter 17A action must address the following: "the petition for review shall name the agency as respondent and shall contain a concise statement of: (1) the nature of the agency action which is the subject of the petition; (2) the particular agency action appealed from; (3) the facts on which venue is based; (4) the grounds on which relief is sought; and (e) the relief sought." Iowa Code § 17A.19(4).

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b. State attorney general

The state attorney general (or a county attorney) may seek judicial enforcement in a chapter 21 proceeding. Iowa Code § 21.6(1). Any suit brought pursuant to chapter 21 must be brought "in the district court for the county in which the governmental body has its principal place of business." Iowa Code § 21.6(1).

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1. Applicable time limits

2. Contents of request

3. How long should you wait for a response?

c. Court

In the district court for the county in which the governmental body has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 21.6(1).

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2. Applicable time limits

Within 6 months of seeking to void the challenged action.

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3. Contents of request for ruling

a. A chapter 21 action must allege "the body in question is subject to the requirements of this chapter and has held a closed session." See Iowa Code § 21.6(2). In addition, the petition must contain "a demand for judgment for the type of relief sought." Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.403(1).

b. "This section changes the burden of going forward with the evidence rather than shifting the burden of proof from plaintiffs to defendants. KCOB/KLVN Inc. v. Jasper Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171, 177 (Iowa 1991). A plaintiff must show substantive proof of a secret meeting rather than mere speculation in order to shift the burden of going forward. Id." Gavin v. City of Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729, 731-732 (Iowa App. 1993).

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4. How long should you wait for a response

Consult local court administrator for time lines.

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5. Are subsequent or concurrent measures (formal or informal) available?

Not specified.

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C. Court review of administrative decision

1. Who may sue?

a. Open Meetings Act: "Any aggrieved person, taxpayer to, or citizen of, the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or county attorney . . . ." Iowa Code § 21.6(1).

b. Administrative Procedures Act: "A person or party who was exhausted all adequate administrative remedies and who is aggrieved or adversely affected . . . ." Iowa Code § 17A.19(1).

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2. Will the court give priority to the pleading?

No docket priority.

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3. Pro se possibility, advisability

Proceeding pro se is permissible but not advisable. There are numerous procedural pitfalls in an action seeking judicial review; the issues are relatively technical; and the party whose meeting one seeks to open will always be represented by counsel. Proceeding pro se may limit the party’s ability to receive attorney’s fees if they are successful. See Fritzsche v. Scott Cty., No. 09-0860, 2010 WL 2383913, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. June 16, 2010) (finding “a pro se attorney litigant may not seek an award or attorney fees under section 21.6(3)(b)”).

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4. What issues will the court address?

Chapter 21: If a plaintiff demonstrates that the governmental body in question is subject to the requirements of chapter 21 and that a closed session was held, the issue will be whether the action was in compliance with the statute.

Chapter 17A: The issue in a chapter 17A proceeding will be whether substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the agency action is: (a) in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (b) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency; (c) in violation of an agency rule; (d) made upon unlawful procedure; (e) affected by other error of law; (f) in a contested case, unsupported by substantial evidence in the record made before the agency when that record is viewed as a whole; or (g) unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious or characterized by an abuse of discretion or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.

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a. Open the meeting

Not an available option.

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b. Invalidate the decision

If challenged within six months.

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c. Order future meetings open

Iowa Code § 21.6(3)(e) provides for mandatory injunction prohibiting violation of the Act for a period of one year.

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5. Pleading format

Pleading format is governed by the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure. See e.g., Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.401- 1.403.

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6. Time limit for filing suit

Six months if seeking to void challenged action.

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7. What court

In the district court for the county in which the governmental body has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 21.6(1).

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8. Judicial remedies available

Review of actions to enforce the open meetings statute are ordinary actions at law. Schumacher v. Lisbon Sch. Bd., 582 N.W .2d 183, 185 (Iowa 1998). They are not equitable actions. Olinger v. Smith, 892 N.W.2d 775, 779 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016).

The trial court's findings are binding if supported by substantial evidence. Tel. Herald Inc. v. City of Dubuque, 297 N.W.2d 529, 533 (Iowa 1980); Gavin v. City of Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729, 731 (Iowa Ct. App.1993).
Iowa Code § 21.6 provides:

1. The remedies provided by this section against state governmental bodies shall be in addition to those provided by section 17A.19. Any aggrieved person, taxpayer to, or citizen of, the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or county attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of this chapter. Suits to enforce this chapter shall be brought in the district court for the county in which the governmental body has its principal place of business.

2. Once a party seeking judicial enforcement of this chapter demonstrates to the court that the body in question is subject to the requirements of this chapter and has held a closed session, the burden of going forward shall be on the body and its members to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

3. Upon a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that a governmental body has violated any provision of this chapter, a court:
a. Shall assess each member of the governmental body who participated in its violation damages in the amount of not more than five hundred dollars and not less than one hundred dollars. However, if a member of a governmental body knowingly participated in such a violation, damages shall be in the amount of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars and not less than one thousand dollars. These damages shall be paid by the court imposing it to the state of Iowa, if the body in question is a state governmental body, or to the local government involved if the body in question is a local governmental body. A member of a governmental body found to have violated this chapter shall not be assessed such damages if that member proves that the member did any of the following:

(1) Voted against the closed session.

(2) Had good reason to believe and in good faith believed facts which, if true, would have indicated compliance with all the requirements of this chapter.

(3) Reasonably relied upon a decision of a court, a formal opinion of the attorney general, or the attorney for the governmental body, given in writing, or as memorialized in the minutes of the meeting at which a formal oral opinion was given, or an advisory opinion of the attorney general or the attorney for the governmental body, given in writing .

b. Shall order the payment of all costs and reasonable attorney fees in the trial and appellate courts to any party successfully establishing a violation of this chapter. The costs and fees shall be paid by those members of the governmental body who are assessed damages under paragraph "a". If no such members exist because they have a lawful defense under that paragraph to the imposition of such damages, the costs and fees shall be paid to the successful party from the budget of the offending governmental body or its parent.

c. Shall void any action taken in violation of this chapter, if the suit for enforcement of this chapter is brought within six months of the violation and the court finds under the facts of the particular case that the public interest in the enforcement of the policy of this chapter outweighs the public interest in sustaining the validity of the action taken in the closed session. This paragraph shall not apply to an action taken regarding the issuance of bonds or other evidence of indebtedness of a governmental body if a public hearing, election or public sale has been held regarding the bonds or evidence of indebtedness.

d. Shall issue an order removing a member of a governmental body from office if that member has engaged in a prior violation of this chapter for which damages were assessed against the member during the member's term.

e. May issue a mandatory injunction punishable by civil contempt ordering the members of the offending governmental body to refrain for one year from any future violations of this chapter.

4. Ignorance of the legal requirements of this chapter shall be no defense to an enforcement proceeding brought under this section. A governmental body which is in doubt about the legality of closing a particular meeting is authorized to bring suit at the expense of that governmental body in the district court of the county of the governmental body's principal place of business to ascertain the propriety of any such action, or seek a formal opinion of the attorney general or an attorney for the governmental body.

Evidence of gross negligence, bad faith and malice is relevant in deciding whether to impose damage award and tax costs. Wells v. Dallas Cty. Bd. of Adjustment, 475 N.W.2d 680, 683 (Iowa 1991).
Chapter 17A
The court may affirm the agency action or remand to the agency for further proceedings. The court shall reverse, modify, or grant any other appropriate relief from the agency action, equitable or legal and including declaratory relief, if substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the agency action is: (a) in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (b) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency; (c) in violation of an agency rule; (d) made upon unlawful procedure; (e) affected by other error of law; (f) in a contested case, unsupported by substantial evidence in the record made before the agency when that record is viewed as a whole; (g) action other than a rule that is inconsistent with a rule of the agency; (h) action other than a rule that is inconsistent with the agency’s prior practice or precedents; (i) the product of illogical and wholly irrational reasoning; (j) the product of a decision-making process in which relevant and important information was not considered; (k) affecting private rights in a grossly disproportionate manner and lacks any foundation in any rational agency policy; (l) based upon an irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable interpretation of a provision of the law; (m) based upon an irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable application of a provision of the law; or (n) otherwise unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Iowa Code §17A.19(10).

City resident challenged a city council decision to create a city manager position because the decision was allegedly made during a closed door session, but the ordinance that created the position was read three times in open sessions before it was passed. Moreover, the resident failed to bring suit to enforce the meetings law within six months of the closed meeting as required by Iowa Code § 21.6; further, the district court could only void a closed meeting action if the public interest involved in enforcing the policy outweighed the interest in sustaining the validity of the action. Adele v. City of Pleasant Hill, No. 07-1338, 2008 WL 2520837 (Iowa Ct. App. June 25, 2008).

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9. Availability of court costs and attorney's fees

Costs and reasonable attorney fees to one establishing violation paid by members assessed damages pursuant to § 21.6(3)(b), or if no such members exist, by the governing body.

Board members who are knowledgeable about the provisions of the Open Meetings Law cannot be said to have reasonably relied on the advice of counsel when they make no effort to follow the simple procedures set forth in Iowa Code § 21.5 for closing meeting. Grell v. City of Coralville Bldg. Appeals Bd., No. 98-1992, 1999 WL 1255744 (Iowa Ct. App., Dec. 27, 1999).

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10. Fines

11. Other penalties

D. Appealing initial court decisions

1. Appeal routes

Appeal is taken by filing a notice with the clerk of court where judgment was entered. Iowa R. App. P. 6.102.

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2. Time limits for filing appeals

Appeal must be taken within thirty days of entry of judgment. Iowa R. App. P. 6.101.

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3. Contact of interested amici

Iowa Freedom of Information Council, 118 Meredith Hall, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa 50311.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press often files amicus briefs in cases involving significant media law issues before a state's highest court.

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V. Asserting a right to comment

Prior to making certain final decisions and final approvals on proposed charters, Iowa statutes require public comment in some cases. See, e.g., Iowa Code §  31.235(2) and § 457B.1.

However, generally, the Open Meetings Act does not require the government to allow any individual or group to be heard on the subject being considered. 1985 WL 549176 (Iowa A.G.). See also, Dobrovolny v. Reinhardt, 173 N.W.2d 837, 840-41 (Iowa 1970).

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A. Is there a right to participate in public meetings?

B. Must a commenter give notice of intentions to comment?

C. Can a public body limit comment?

D. How can a participant assert rights to comment?

E. Are there sanctions for unapproved comment?

Appendix