The Ottumwa Courier

July 5, 2013

Iowa court: Dyersville violated open records law

Ottumwa Courier

---- — DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court said Friday the city of Dyersville violated the state open records law in 2010 because it took more than two months to respond to a request for documents from a construction supply business that sued the city over its contract bidding process.

Horsfield Materials of Epworth sued Dyersville claiming the city violates state public bidding laws by allowing only three preapproved companies to bid on contracts to supply concrete and rock for construction projects.

The court found in its ruling released Friday that city practices do not violate bidding laws.

The court said the city's policy of accepting bids only from companies it has experience with and knows can provide the quality of materials required "serves a realistically conceivable governmental interest in quality control."

The court said there may be better ways to assure quality at a competitive price but the city's process is not so arbitrary that it violates constitutional rights of equal protection or due process.

However, the court found that Dyersville took too long to respond to requests from Horsfield for documents, handing over 600 pages after about 70 days. The court sent that portion of the case back to Dubuque County District Court for further action.

Douglas Henry, an attorney representing Dyersville, said city officials believe they did not violate the law. He said the next step depends on Horsfield.

"It's sent back to the trial court level for further action. What that action is depends in large part on what the other side thinks should happen now and we'll respond to that," Henry said.

The attorney for Horsfield did not immediately respond to messages.

The open records law says remedies for violations could include a fine of up to $500 for anyone participating in a violation and fines of between $1,000 and $2,500 for anyone who knowingly violated the law.

The court also could order payment of costs and attorney fees by the person found to have violated the law. If no specific person is blamed, the costs could be paid out of the city budget.