A new state board charged with enforcing Iowa’s open records laws is facing a tough case. The Des Moines Register is seeking the release of a video it believes will show the mistreatment of a young girl at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.
“At issue is a videotape of a beating of a child,” says Mike Guidecessi, The Register’s attorney, “and the excuses that are being given by the state we think don’t hold up.”
Diane Stahle, an assistant state attorney general, is representing the home’s management in this case and she says the girl’s confidentiality must be protected.
“This is a child who has already suffered greatly in her life,” Stahle says. “And, really, should her image be public information forevermore, to be posted on the Internet?”
The Register’s attorney says the child’s image can be blurred to protect her if the video is released to the public. He says the public deserves to see what its government is doing to citizens.
“To my mind, this situation is at that heart of the importance of government accountability,” says Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Kathleen Richardson, a member of the Iowa Public Information Board.
Richardson says she found none of the arguments for keeping the video confidential persuasive. Late last week the full Public Information Board decided to seek more information about the case and the members asked to review the video for themselves before making a decision. The board will revisit the case at its next meeting in January.
A former employee at the Iowa Juvenile Home faces criminal charges for his actions in restraining the girl. At one point, her head hit the wall.