The ACLU of Iowa has launched a website it says will help you find out more about government. ACLU executive director, Ben Stone, says the website came out of failed efforts to reform the state open records law.
Stone says dealing with changes to the Iowa Chapter 22 open records law has been a “very frustrating experience,” and he says “a lot of people in the government and in special interest groups really have made it difficult fro that statute to be improved in our view.”
Stones says instead of waiting for the government the ACLU decided to do it themselves. He says the website provides tutorial. He says it’s a place Iowa citizens can go to learn how to start an Iowa open records request or a federal freedom of information request. Stone says Iowa has a good law, but people need to use it.
Stone says they hope to create an environment where people use the law to find out more about the government and help it improve. He says accessing the information can seem hard for those who haven’t done it before.
Stone says people may not know the steps to take unless they’ve “kind of become a career activist who routinely does battle with city hall.” He says the site shows how you can get information by simply writing a letter and citing the law. Stone says it also explains the requirements of the law.
Stone says if you seek open records under the law, you have to be willing to pay for the cost of those documents. He says that is something to be considered and they provide advice on that, and also may offer help from their legal staff if you have a legitimate claim for the records.
Stone says they hope as more people take an interest in the public records it will create some momentum to make some needed changes in the law. You can find the Iowa Open Government website at: www.aclu-ia.org.