Riverside attorney offers opinions on legal issues
RIVERSIDE – Leslie Lamping, the city attorney for Riverside, was asked to review some specific issues for the city ranging from videotaping of meetings by the public to the incompatibility of a council member serving on a city committee that is funded by the city and a splash pad referendum. His findings were presented in writing March 15 as part of public council documents.
The videotaping issue, as well as audio recordings and photographs, is covered in Iowa Code Section 21.7 (and echoed in the city code) that allows cameras or recording devices at any open meeting. However, the state code does allow for councils to make “reasonable rules” to assure its meetings “are orderly and free from interference or interruption by spectators.”
The City of West Branch earlier took that to mean it could ban everything and rapidly found itself facing not only objections but legal action. Of course, the suggested ban was not pursued.
The City of Kalona has dealt with serious interference or interruption of its meetings by calling the police, not by trying to abridge First Amendment rights. There have been deputies requested to be in attendance at Riverside meetings, although actual need for their services did not arise during any of the discussions
As for rules about recordings in any form of the meetings, so far the only rule that the three-pronged council majority sought is to keep the (non-press) public recorders in the back of the room.
In regard to agenda language, Lamping found that “interview criteria” was legally sufficent, noting that criteria is the plural of criterion, citing the definition from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary as “a standard on which a deicision or judgment may be based.”
The issue was whether the listing was enough to “reasonably apprise the public” of the issue. Lamping noted that the number of people who attended the meeting, as well as the length of the session, appeared to meet the requirement that there be a full opportunity for public knowledge and participation.
He also replied to a question about a motion versus a resolution, specifically regarding a proposed motion of March 5 submitted by council member Kevin Kiene about a work session for April 5. Lamping said it is his opinion that a motion is sufficient. The session was held.
There also was a request if the city or Iowa codes provide for a direct citizen vote on the splash pad issue.
“I have been unable to locate any provision in the Iowa Code or in the city oridnances which provides for such a direct vote,” he wrote.
The question of whether a council member may serve on a city committee if the council funds that committee or other group, led to citing Iowa Code, Section 312-13(9) that provides “a council member, during the term for which that member is elected, is not eligible for appointment to any city office if the office has been created or the compensation of the office increased during the term for which that member is elected.” He added, “It is my understanding that a person is not appointed to the visioning committee.”
However, in referencing a 1912 Iowa Supreme Court case he noted that when it comes to “incompatibility” one of the factors to consider is if one group or committee is subject to the “revisory power” of the other. If such a situation exists, then incompatibility exists, he wrote.
“It is my understanding that while the visioning committee only makes recommendations, those recommendations are subject to the ‘revisory power’ or the ability to change or amend by the city council.”
He concluded that “I believe that such an ‘incompatability’ does exist under the facts described to me.
The requests for information from Lamping were made by council members.