The Ottumwa Courier

May 15, 2014

Daily Iowegian files complaint against Board of Supervisors

Daily Iowegian

---- — CENTERVILLE — The Daily Iowegian has filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board after the county failed to follow the Iowa open meetings law when it interviewed candidates for the vacant county attorney’s office.

Dean Kaster, chairman of the county’s board of supervisors, confirmed the interviews were conducted with all three supervisors present, along with six other individuals who will have to work with the new county attorney. The six present included the county sheriff, two probation officers, the county auditor, the clerk of court and the county attorney secretary.

Kaster said meeting notices were posted on the courthouse bulletin board and the meetings were open to the public.

"There was nothing other than we opened the meeting and closed the meeting and had discussion with a candidate," Kaster said. "Otherwise, there was no decision made.”

But the posting wasn’t all that was required of the county. Since the Iowegian has a written request to receive agendas on file, merely posting agendas to a bulletin board no longer satisfies the requirements in providing notification of a public meeting, according to Iowa code.

When Southeast Iowa Digital Content Editor Matt Milner attempted to obtain the agendas from Appanoose County Auditor Linda Demry on Thursday, she stated that she did not keep the agendas in question.

“I didn’t keep them,” Demry said. “I didn’t know I was supposed to keep them. … I didn’t keep the agendas.”

When asked if the agendas had been destroyed, Demry hesitated at first and then said yes, they had indeed been destroyed.

“I didn’t … I … yeah. Yeah,” Demry said.

She stated that she was not aware a meeting agenda was a public record.

“I didn’t know that,” Demry said. “I didn’t know a special meeting posting was supposed to be a public record.”

Meetings for the Appanoose County Board of Supervisors are routinely posted near the front door of the courthouse.

Demry said the agendas for the May 6 and 13 meetings were removed because the meetings were already held. However, as of Thursday afternoon, meeting agendas were still present for meetings that had already occurred as far back as April of this year.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office has documents outlining the open meetings law are available on the attorney general’s website. In one of the documents, dated March 20, 2013, it is stated the distribution of notices must including advising the news media who have filed a request for notice.

The document continues to say, “failure to post and send notice as required under Iowa code section 21.4 renders a subsequent meeting a “closed session” and makes applicable remedies for closed session violations.”

Matt Milner, southeast Iowa digital content editor, contributed to this story.