The executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council calls a small group of southwest Iowa journalists are “heroes.”
Kathleen Richardson’s comments come in the wake of an Iowa Court of Appeals decision on a case out of Red Oak. K-C-S-I, Red Oak’s radio station, and the newspapers in Red Oak and Villisca pursued a lawsuit against a member of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors who refused to conceed he had violated Iowa’s Open Meeting Act by convening a meeting about the county’s budget without the public present.
“This group of Iowa journalists was persistent in ensuring that the members of their community receive information about local government,” Richardson says. “They’re certainly heroes to the rest of us who spend our lives doing this.”
Richardson says the case should send a message to county officials across the state. “It’s important to follow the law,” Richardson says. “One of the clear things about this case is that the violation of the law was just so egregious and so very clear and this shows that you can’t thumb your nose at the public meetings law in Iowa.”
The case dates back to February 2003 when Mongomery County Supervisor Dale Carlson was one of three county supervisors who met to discuss details of the county’s budget in the morning, and essentially out of public view, rather than in the afternoon when the public had been told the board would meet.
Carlson was the lone hold-out after a lower court ruled the supervisors had violated the law. That court had ordered Carlson and another supervisor to pay a fine and the thousands of dollars worth of legal fees the radio station and newspapers had racked up over the course of the case.
The Court of Appeals has ruled it finds “little to disagree with in the district court’s ruling” and has ordered Carlson to pay the money. You can find more information about Iowa’s Open Meetings and Open Records law on-line at www.ifoic.org