Governmental bodies often use advisory committees or task forces to provide them with advice or input before they make decisions on complex matters. Government officials and members of the public alike often wonder: Is an advisory body subject to Iowa's Open Meetings Law if it has no decision-making authority?
The answer is not always simple. Some advisory bodies are not technically governmental bodies at all. But, many advisory bodies are required to comply with all laws governing open meetings - such as providing prior notice, and public access to observe the meeting.
Here are examples of advisory bodies that are subject to Iowa's Open Meetings Law:
- An advisory board, commission or task force created by the Governor or the Legislature to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.
- Any advisory body expressly created by statute, executive order, formal resolution or ordinance of a political subdivision (e.g., a city council, school board, or county board of supervisors) to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.
- A multi-membered body formally and directly created by a state board, council, or commission that itself is subject to the Open Meetings Law -- if the multi-membered body's advice or recommendations are tantamount to decision making. (Example: some advisory bodies narrow the range of options for final decision by a governmental body.)
The Open Meetings Law is designed to shine light on deliberation and discussion, not just on final decisions. When important steps in deliberation or discussion will take place before an advisory body that is not covered by the Open Meetings Law, advisory bodies should consider whether to follow the Open Meetings Law voluntarily and allow the public to attend and observe.
Sunshine advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws – our "sunshine” laws. Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.
The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent board that the Iowa Legislature established specifically to address open meetings and open records-related matters. The IPIB provides information to the public and governmental entities on "sunshine" issues.
The IPIB, which has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and enforce Iowa's open meetings and open records laws, enables citizens to file a complaint if they believe that someone is violating these laws.
Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings should contact the Iowa Public Information Board. Iowa Public Information Board.
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