Who informs public officials about Sunshine Laws?
People who are appointed or elected to public office assume a big responsibility to act in accordance with Iowa laws governing open meetings and public records. These "sunshine laws" grant the public specific rights of access -- and impose specific duties on public officials. But who assures that public officials are knowledgeable about these laws so that they may carry out their duties? Are officials on their own to learn the applicable provisions of law? On whose shoulders does the obligation fall to provide public officials with information?
Iowa statutes charge certain individuals with the obligation to provide information about "sunshine laws" to public officials:
- Appointing Authorities: Under Iowa law, the authority who appoints members of a governmental body has the duty to provide the members with information about the Open Meetings Law and the Public Records Law. (Iowa Code sec. 21.10.) For example, the Governor, the General Assembly, and county boards of supervisors have the duty to provide information to members of agencies, boards or commissions whom they appoint.
- Commissioner of Elections: The appropriate commissioner of elections has the duty to provide information to members of elected governmental bodies. Iowa Code sec. 21.10. The Secretary of State is the appropriate "commissioner of elections" for state governmental bodies. (Iowa Code sec. 47.1.) The county auditor is the appropriate "commissioner of elections" for other governmental bodies. (Iowa Code sec. 47.2.)
- Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB): The Iowa Public Information Board's duties includes providing training opportunities to governmental bodies and people subject to the requirements of Iowa Code Chapters 21 and 22.
Remember: Public officials must be knowledgeable about the Open Meetings Law and the Public Records Law in order to carry out their duties. The law imposes an obligation to "provide information" to these public officials.
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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