A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller -- April 2006
Can Public Bodies Negotiate in Private
for the Purchase of Real Estate?
How does Iowa's Open Meetings law operate when public bodies are purchasing
When private parties negotiate a real estate transaction, they do not generally "show
their cards" to the other side at every step of the way. What about public bodies subject
to Iowa's Open Meetings law (Iowa Code ch. 21), such as a city council or county board
of supervisors? Are they required to negotiate the purchase of real estate in full public
Public bodies subject to Iowa's Open Meetings law must fully disclose to the public
how they spend public funds to purchase real estate, but, for a brief period of time, they
may keep some negotiations private -- under very limited circumstances. (See Iowa Code
A public body may vote in open session to go into a closed session in
connection with the purchase of real estate if both of the following are true:
- The body will go into closed session to discuss the purchase of particular real estate
and not to generally discuss whether or when to purchase real estate.
- The body reasonably expects that premature disclosure of the discussion could
increase the price the body would have to pay for that particular property.
In addition, as soon as the real estate transaction discussed in closed session is
completed, all minutes and tapes of the closed session must be disclosed to the public.
Remember: Public bodies may conduct some real estate purchase
negotiations privately, but only under very limited circumstances - and they must
disclose all details when real estate transactions are completed.
For copies of all 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.