Iowa law requires access to meetings by telephone or fiber optics.
Government bodies may conduct meetings electronically -- by telephone or video-conference, for example -- when an in-person meeting is impossible or impractical. However, using technology to conduct a meeting does not alter the public's basic right of access to observe or listen to a public meeting. Public bodies may not use a teleconference to avoid the requirements of Iowa's Open Meetings Law (Iowa Code Ch. 21.)
Here are some basic principles to assure public access to electronic meetings:
- Electronic meetings are only allowed when an in-person meeting is "impossible" or "impractical." The minutes of the meeting must include a statement explaining why an in-person meeting was impossible or impractical.
- Public bodies must provide the same advance notice and tentative agenda for electronic meetings as for in-person meetings. For purposes of posting notice and a tentative agenda, the "place of the meeting" is where the communication originates or where the public will have access to the conversation.
- The public must have access to all conversations held in open session during the electronic meeting. For instance, some public bodies provide a speaker phone at the location where in-person meetings are commonly held. Other public bodies may permit members of the public to call a special number to listen to a conference call meeting.
- Public bodies may go into closed session during an electronic meeting, IF they meet all requirements for going into closed session. When an electronic meeting is closed, public access to the conversation is terminated.
Officials and citizens alike should be familiar with the rules for holding electronic meetings in order to assure sustained and meaningful citizen access to public meetings.
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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