From rural township boards to the governor’s office, each level of government in Iowa is responsible for carrying out the state’s open records and open meetings law. And when disagreements occur or citizens run into a roadblock in their pursuit of information, there is no clear path they can take to ensure the law is being properly followed.
“I get a lot of calls from citizens when they can’t find someone to call. They can’t believe their local officials are refusing to follow the law and there’s nothing the citizen can do about it except sue. It’s very frustrating for them,” said Kathleen Richardson, a Drake University instructor and director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. Richardson’s organization educates citizens — primarily journalists and public officials — about open records and open meetings rules.
Because uniform enforcement isn’t ensured by the state, advocates of open government say Iowans in search of information can run into incomplete explanations of denials or crippling fees for obtaining documents. But the avenues for redressing those decisions are often unclear.
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