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.