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Sunshine Advisory Bulletin

A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller --March 2009

“Sunshine Week: Let the Sun Shine” Attorney General “Sunshine Advisories” Help People Understand Iowa’s Open Meetings and Public Records Laws

 

March 15‑21 marks "Sunshine Week," a time to focus on Iowa's sunshine laws ‑- the Open Meetings Law, and the Public Records Law (Iowa Code Chapters 21 and 22.)  These laws assure public access to open meetings and open records at all levels of government.  

            “Sunshine Advisory” bulletins prepared by the Attorney General discuss basic points of Iowa’s Open Meetings Law and Public Records Law.  More than 60 Sunshine Advisories have been produced since November 2001.  For a detailed index and copies of all Sunshine Advisories, go to and click on “open government.”

            Here are a few highlights summarized from past Sunshine Advisories:

  • The public is entitled to use cameras and recording devices at open meetings.

  • People may request copies of public records by contacting a governmental body by letter, telephone or electronic means –  including fax or e‑mail.

  • A government body is never allowed to use secret ballots when voting in open session.

  • Public officials may deny access to an entire record only if the entire record is confidential under law. If only some information is confidential under law, public officials should “redact” or black out confidential information and provide access to the rest of the record.

  • Unless an emergency requires immediate action, only matters included on the tentative agenda may be discussed at a meeting.

  • Governmental bodies may not charge a fee simply to examine a record; fees for retrieving, copying and supervising records should be based only on actual costs.

  • Open meetings may close only for one of twelve specific reasons provided by statute.

  • Electronic data stored in a computer is public record, and the lawful custodian must provide access to open records stored in electronic format.

            Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings may call the Iowa Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman Office – toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)