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Requesting Open Records

Under Iowa's Open Records Law you are entitled upon request to receive all records, documents, tapes, or other information stored or preserved in any medium that belong to a governmental body, as well as “investment policies, instructions, trading orders, or contracts, whether in the custody of the public body responsible for the public funds or a fiduciary or other third party.  Statutory exceptions do apply and are listed in Iowa Code Chapter 22.

Making an Open Records Request in Iowa

Similar to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Iowa Open Records law requires the lawful custodian of public records to fulfill all requests, whether they are received in writing, by telephone, or by electronic means.


There are no specific forms or wording needed to make a request.  However, the following information will help the government body comply with the records request:
  A description of the public records you want
  The maximum dollar amount you are willing to pay in fees (you will be notified if the records exceed that amount)
  The proper person and the agency you believe has the record. (All government bodies are required to publicize to whom requests for public records should be directed. Check agency websites for more detail.)

Some agencies will ask for your name and identification before releasing a record. You have no legal obligation to comply. Iowa Code does not require the public to explain reasons for the request or divulge personal information when making an initial public record request.

Commonly Requested Public Records

Some of the most commonly requested public records are listed below:

  State university records
  E-mails belonging to government bodies
  Public high school board meeting minutes
  Arrest records (confidential information can be blacked out)
  Documents relating to investment of public funds


In some cases, fees for information searching and processing may be charged.

  Iowa Code 22.3 allows a “reasonable fee” charged for expenses associated with copying or research. 
        22.3 specifically states that the fee for copying service shall not exceed the actual cost of providing the service.
  Every person has the right to examine public records at the physical location holding the records.
  An office can charge a reasonable fee for supervision of the examination of a record while in the office’s possession.
  Public offices do not have to provide direct access to their computers, so some software and electronic databases may not allow access.
  Occasionally an agency will ask for advance payment and provide you “estimated expenses”  
        (You could avoid this problem by narrowing your request to specific records.)


If a court finds a government body failed to comply with a request, 22.10 allows the court to either issue an injunction mandating compliance, fining the offending agency, and/or finding the records custodian guilty of a criminal misdemeanor.

Pit Falls:

There is no requirement in Iowa Code to create records. For example, data, but no document, may be available under open records laws.


Several exemptions are listed but other specific exemptions may apply elsewhere in the Code outside of Chapter 22. 
Some records that will not be available to the public under open records laws include
  Hospital, medical, and counseling records
  Trade Secrets
  Personnel records
  Attorney work product
  Records pertaining to security issues that would serve no “public purpose”