Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 26, 2018

Sunshine Week: Winners and sinners

Provided by the Iowa Newspaper Association
Below are a few examples of “winners” and “sinners” in the area of open, transparent government.  Please share this information with your readers, and add to it from your local community, to help educate them on ways in which the public comes in contact with the Iowa open meetings and public records laws.
Retired Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw, who set out to improve openness and transparency in the department when she took the helm in 2007. During her tenure as Chief she increased trust between the department and the community through openness and transparency.
The late Wayne Davis for his lifelong dedication to upholding the freedoms provided by the First Amendment and his commitment to an open, transparent government. Davis enjoyed a 30-year career as owner of the Seymour Herald and then went on to inspire generations of journalism students as a faculty member at Iowa State University’s journalism school.
Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals for maintaining a “report card” on Iowa nursing homes and posting restaurant inspection reports on its website.
Iowa’s 99 county recorders who have a strong commitment to public access to land records and other records in their possession.
The Iowa Board of Regents for its handling of University of Iowa President Sally Mason’s retirement.  The Board approved, in a closed meeting, Mason’s request to remain a tenured employee after her Aug. 1 retirement saying the meeting was closed to prevent the disclosure of information that would cause needless and “irreparable harm” to Mason’s reputation.  The decision made behind closed doors allows her to stay on at the school as a tenured professor, with all of the fringe benefits accorded to faculty, at a salary of $315,000 plus one year free of teaching and service obligations.
Warren County Board of Supervisors, which has been sued by six county employees whose jobs were eliminated in a cost-cutting move.  The employees accused the Board of violating the open meetings law by not discussing the reorganization in open session. During the trial, the county administrator admitted deliberately skirting the open meetings law by never talking to a quorum of the supervisors at one time about the dismissals. The reorganization plan was not made available to the public until a few minutes before a special meeting. By that time, the county had already issued the severance packages and hired vendors to take over the fired employees’ responsibilities. The case is now before the Iowa Supreme Court.
Washington County Attorney Larry Brock for failing to respond to a public records request from a terminated county employee and then ignoring the Iowa Public Information Board’s attempts to resolve the issue. The IPIB staff eventually obtained release of the records and recommended that the board resolve the case by fining Brock $100 and requiring him to complete remedial training. The board rejected the settlement and scheduled a hearing in the case. Ultimately, statutory damages of $1,000 were imposed on Mr. Brock.