Courts can remove public officials from office on the second violation of sunshine laws
Courts in Iowa can oust an official from office for violating "sunshine laws." (See Iowa Code sec. 21.6(3)(d) and 22.10(3)(d)). In fact, courts "shall" remove from office any public official on the second violation for which monetary damages are assessed.
In summary, penalties for violating sunshine laws the second time include the following:
- Removal from Office: Upon finding that a government body has violated the Open Meetings Law, or that a lawful custodian has violated the Public Records Law, a court shall remove the person from office if that person has engaged in one prior violation for which damages were assessed during the person's term. Iowa Code secs. 21.6(3)(d), 22.10(3)(d).
- Injunction and Civil Contempt: Upon finding that a government body has violated the Open Meetings Law, or upon finding that a lawful custodian has violated the Public Records Law, a court may issue an injunction punishable by civil contempt ordering members to refrain from future violations for one year. Iowa Code secs. 21.6(3)(e) and 22.10(3)(a). If a second violation occurs while the injunction is in place, the official could be held in civil contempt. This can mean additional damages, or even jail time. See Iowa Code sec. 665.4.
- Remember: Persons who are elected or appointed to serve Iowans have a duty to comply with Iowa's sunshine laws. Responsible public officials don't "strike out!"
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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