The state board that oversees openness in government has voted not to release a recording of its own closed meeting. Bert Dalmer of the Iowa Ombudsman’s Office is seeking the recording, to investigate a complaint about the board’s vote to keep the audio secret.
“In the interest of full transparency and accountability, we need this information,” Dalmer says.
There’s a long-running dispute over whether the public should be able to view ALL the body camera footage from a fatal police shooting in Burlington. The Iowa Public Information Board hired an independent prosecutor to seek release of that video.
The Public Information Board met last month in private to discuss the case, then reconvened in public session and took a vote, but refused to reveal what the board had voted upon. An open records advocate filed a complaint with the ombudsman’s office. Yesterday, Dalmer asked the board for its recording of that meeting.
“The fact is we cannot fully explore this complaint without those records,” Dalmer says.
The Public Information Board refused Dalmer’s request, citing attorney-client privilege. Dalmer says his agency will continue to investigate the complaint about the secrecy surrounding the board’s action.
Two and a half years ago, a Burlington policeman shot at a vicious dog, but the bullet hit and killed a 34-year-old woman. Burlington Police released 12 seconds of video from the shooting. The Iowa Public Information Board has been trying since December of 2015 to get all of the police video from the incident released.
The Des Moines County Attorney decided not to file criminal charges in the case, calling the policeman’s actions reasonable after being bitten by the dog.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)