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May 1, 2005

Iowans Can Request Public Records by Telephone, Letter, Fax, or E-mail

Iowans have a right to request copies of public records by contacting governmental bodies by letter, telephone, or electronic means such as "fax" or e-mail. Many state and local agencies and public bodies have adopted rules and policies to honor requests in various forms.

All governmental bodies should prepare to respond to requests in various forms:

  • Develop policies to handle requests made in writing, by telephone and by electronic means. Who will keep track of the requests? Who will assure that the records are retrieved, copied and delivered timely? Public officials should designate and train staff appropriately.
  • Decide on advance payment for providing records. The lawful custodian is expressly authorized to require payment of expenses incurred in advance of providing the records. If advance payment is required, an estimate of the expenses shall be communicated on receipt of the request.
  • Review policies on expenses to be sure only actual expenses are included. Public officials may collect only those expenses directly attributable to supervising examination and making and providing copies. Charges may not include ordinary expenses or costs, such as employment benefits of office workers who supervise records, or depreciation, maintenance, electricity, or insurance associated with the administration of the office of the lawful custodian.

Responding to requests for public records received in writing or by telephone or by electronic means has always been good public policy -- and it's the law.

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.

Wallace Building, Third Floor
502 East 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319


Phone: 515-725-1781

Updated December 1, 2014


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