The president of the board that oversees Iowa’s three public universities says last Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court that redefined what constitutes an “open meeting” among public officials raises questions for his board. Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter has asked the board’s attorney for advice.
“We’re trying to get clarity on the decision, because we want to make sure that we’re operating under the law,” Rastetter says.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the Warren County Board of Supervisors likely broke the state’s open meetings law by having a county employee pass notes between the elected officials. Advocates of open government hailed the ruling, saying it ensures citizens can monitor the work of government.
Rastetter says he’s unsure now whether conversations board members may have individually with the board’s executibve director might violate the guidelines in the Supreme Court’s ruling — if those individual conversations cover the same topic.
“I think it’s going to be a problem and I think our lawyers or the state needs to clarify exactly what it means on how we’re going to operate because we want to do things within the law,” Rastetter says. “But we also want to be able to have normal, practical conversations on how you make improvement.”
Rastetter made his comments this morning during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that will air Friday evening on Iowa Public Television.
Under Iowa’s open meetings law, any gathering where a majority of elected or appointed officials on a governmental body consider public policy must be open to the public. The Supreme Court’s ruling expanded that to include meetings where a majority of members communicate “by proxy” — which means they communicate to one another through another person.