Advocates for openness in government are fuming about a ruling from the Attorney General’s office, and question whether it’s necessary to write common sense and courtesy in every Iowa law on open records. An assistant attorney general for the state says Iowa’s Open Records law does not require agencies to copy public records and mail them to people. The matter revolves around a request from a prison inmate who asked for some public records and offered to pay the costs of copying and mailing the papers. A spokesman for the attorney general says the inmate had already been given other records, and it’s unclear whether he was willing to pay the copying and postage fees. In addition, Bob Brammer, a spokesman for the attorney general, says the law itself does not say state agencies are obligated to copy and mail records. But what if the person who requested the materials wasn’t an inmate, perhaps someone who lives in Shenandoah and didn’t want to drive to Des Moines? Journalists and others who advocate for openness in government say this ruling is another illustration of how government attorneys consider the inconvenience of bureaucrats a bigger issue than an inconvenience for regular citizens.
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