A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Issues Regarding the Open Meetings Law. 2004 IARC Staff Retreat May 14, 2004 Ames, IA. David Vestal General Counsel Iowa State Association of Counties email@example.com. 1. What Governmental Bodies Are Covered?. A governing body of a city or county.
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2004 IARC Staff Retreat
May 14, 2004
Iowa State Association of Counties
Iowa's Open Meetings Law says a governmental body "meets" when there is:
A governmental body "meeting" does not include a purely ministerial or social gathering at which there is no discussion of policy or intent to avoid the Open Meetings Law, even if a quorum is present.
Public bodies occasionally schedule retreats or "work sessions" separate from regularly-scheduled meetings in order to discuss policy issues or examine new ideas. These events can help a public body to focus its mission. But retreats and work sessions are covered by Iowa's Open Meetings Law and cannot be held in private unless grounds exist to close the session.
Government bodies may conduct meetings electronically -- by telephone or video-conference, for example – only when an in-person meeting is impossible or impractical.
Here are some basic principles for tentative agendas for public meetings:
Citizens who attend public meetings need to be able to identify which members voted, and how they voted.
Here are basic principles regarding closed sessions:
Here are the steps government bodies must take for a meeting to be closed:
Here is what that looks like:
Total on BoardMembers PresentVotes Needed toClose
5 5 4
5 4 4
5 3 3
3 3 2
3 2 2
Minutes of an open session shall always include:
Nothing in the Open Meetings Law requires publishing minutes of the meeting. Minutes have to be taken, and available to the public, but not published. Another statute may require that they be published, like Iowa Code section 349.16 for boards of supervisor minutes.
The penalties for violating the Open Meetings Law include the following:
1) voting against going into closed session;
2) acting on advice of legal counsel; and
3) acting in good faith and having a good reason to believe that the action taken was legal.