Iowa Open Meetings Ruling Expected Friday Morning

Mar 17, 2016

Friday morning, the Iowa Supreme Court is expected to release a decision that could dramatically weaken Iowa’s open meeting’s law.

Two years ago the Warren County Board of Supervisors decided to lay off 12 county employees.

The three-member panel did not deliberate in person or through email. Rather they reached their unanimous decision by having the county administrator relay messages among the three board members. 

By communicating this way, the board supervisors hoped to skirt the state’s open meeting’s law.

The laid-off workers argued last fall at the state Supreme Court that deliberating through a proxy still counts as a meeting.

The board of supervisors disagreed, since the state’s open meeting’s statute defines a meeting as a gathering that occurs, “in person or by electronic means.”

During oral arguments the justices seemed to agree the county board violated the spirit of the open meetings law. But it remains to be seen if the state's high court believes board supervisors actually broke the law.

If the board prevails, it could dramatically hinder the public’s ability to witness elected officials making decisions.

This ruling comes during Sunshine Week, which is a national celebration of the public's right to access information. In an email, the Iowa Judicial Branch's Communications Director Steve Davis wrote this was a coincidence.