A report by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council says openess in Iowa government is eroding — and there are plenty of people to blame. Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive secretary Kathleen Richardson says the bad outweighed the good in the report on access to public records and meetings. She says the report shows Iowans are in danger of “frittering away the rights they have to open government.” Richardson says there are many examples of the rules being broken. Richardson continues to hear cases of local government officials who deliberately ignore, refuse to follow, or try to skirt Iowa’s open meetings laws. Richardson says some of the open meetings rules are broken out of ignorance. She says local officials are sometimes afraid of releasing too much information, so they don’t release anything. Richardson says state legislators took action in their recent session that also hurt government openness. The legislature acted to close access to information on airports, municipalities, municipal utilities and water districts. Richardson says the changes closed access to many important public records out of fear in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Richardson says everyone has a duty to ensure our system of open government stays intact by knowing what sorts of records should be legally available to the public. Richardson says the Freedom of Information Council, which is made up of jounalists, librarians, attorneys, educators and others, has information available about open meetings laws. She says the Iowa Attorney General’s office can also provide information and training on open meetings issues.
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