Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Sunshine Advisory

A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws

By Attorney General Tom Miller -- March 2006

Open Meetings and Public Records:
Let the Sun Shine!

"Sunshine Week" is observed in March. It's a time to focus on Iowa's sunshine laws - the Open Meetings Law, and the Public Records Law (Iowa Code Chapters 21 and 22.) These are the laws that assure public access to meetings and public records at all levels of government in Iowa.

This month also marks the Attorney General's 53rd "Sunshine Advisory" bulletin. The advisories discuss specific aspects of Iowa's sunshine laws, and they have been issued each month since November 2001.

Here are a few highlights summarized from advisories issued over the past year:

  • Governmental bodies cannot charge a fee simply to examine a record; fees for retrieving, copying and supervising records should be based only on actual costs.
  • People can request copies of public records by contacting a governmental body by letter, by telephone, or by electronic means, including fax or e-mail.
  • Courts can remove a public official from office upon the second violation of the sunshine laws.
  • The duty to provide a reasonable number of copies of public records continues even when the copier breaks down - governmental bodies must find other means to furnish copies.
  • Electronic data stored in a computer is public record, and the lawful custodian must provide access to open records stored in electronic format.
  • Governmental bodies may engage in a "good faith, reasonable delay" in responding to requests for public records, but this delay must be for a reason specified by statute.

For copies of all 53 Sunshine Advisories, and for other "sunshine" information, visit our web site at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org (click on "open government" at bottom.)

Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings may call the Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman Office -- toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)

"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins provide information on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws -- our "Sunshine Laws." The bulletins are a resource for public officials and citizens. Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.

Iowa Attorney General's Office:  Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.

On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.