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April 1, 2002

Safeguarding Public Records

Public officials need to facilitate access AND protect records.

The public has a right to personally examine public records at a government office, and to receive a copy at a reasonable cost (not to exceed actual cost) -- but the lawful custodian of government records has a corresponding duty to preserve the integrity of public records for the benefit of all Iowans. To ensure access and security, the law directs public officials to:

  • Provide a suitable place for the public to examine and copy public records at the office where the records are maintained.
  • Supervise examination and copying of public records, and adopt reasonable rules to guard against damage or disorganization.
  • Make a reasonable number of copies if copy equipment is available, or supervise copying at a separate location if it is impractical to make copies at the location where the records are kept.
  • Charge reasonable fees for copying and supervising, not exceeding the actual cost. Any fees should be posted and applied uniformly.
  • Retain control of public records. Persons may not simply remove public records from a government office to examine or copy them at a remote location.

The public's right of access to public records -- and the government's obligation to preserve them -- are flip sides of the same coin. The Iowa Public Records law spells out requirements to guarantee access to records, and to preserve them for all.

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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