Today marks the beginning of “Sunshine Week", an observation of the public’s right to access information. The Iowa Freedom of Information Council is reminding officials that a higher level of transparency is part of the territory that comes with holding elected office.
"These government bodies are public bodies. They are not private. They are not a private business, they are not a private school," says Randy Evans, head of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. "What we need are officials who recognize they are going to work in a goldfish bowl."
Evans places Iowa towards the middle nationally when it comes to government transparency. He says one bright spot for government accessibility is the Iowa Public Information Board, which was created by the legislature in 2012. This board allows citizens to address concerns about open meetings and records laws without hiring a lawyer.
He adds it’s also the public’s responsibility to keep itself informed, and that the best time for people to get involved isn't when there is a major problem, but rather by staying engaged with local issues.
In October, the Iowa Supreme Court heard a case that may severely weaken Iowa's open meetings law. The court has yet to issue a ruling.