The following information has been supplied by the office of the Iowa Ombudsman:
Public Records and Open Meetings Complaints
The Office of Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has authority to investigate complaints about most state and local government agencies. The Ombudsman attempts to resolve most problems informally. Following an investigation, the Ombudsman may make findings and recommendations and may publish a report.
In most cases a difference of opinion or misunderstanding is often resolved by simply taking the time to talk and listen. First, discuss the problem with the agency involved before contacting our office. Many times agency officials are eager to explain what they did and why they did it, or will correct the problem to your satisfaction.
Open Records Complaints: What to Do Before Calling the Ombudsman
If you have requested public records but the agency has not been responsive, put your request in writing. Be clear about what records you wish to obtain and recognize that the agency can charge you for the work associated with retrieving and copying a record, or in supervising the examination of the record. If the agency refuses to provide you with the record, ask them to provide the statutory authority for keeping the record confidential, preferably in writing. If you disagree with their response, you may send the relevant documents to the Ombudsman for review.
Open Meeting Complaints: What to Do Before Calling the Ombudsman
Open Meetings law questions and complaints are best handled prior to the date of the meeting. If you see an error in the public notice or believe meetings are being scheduled without notice, attempt to contact the agency preferably in writing (if there is time to do so) or in person (if it’s an emergency) . If a meeting has already occurred and the public did not have access, make the public officials aware of it so they can try to correct the problem immediately. If the problem is occurring, if officials continue to disregard the law, or if the damage is done, contact the Ombudsman.
If you follow the above suggestions and still cannot resolve the problem, you can contact the Ombudsman for help.
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