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 2003

Are Advisory Bodies Subject to Iowa's Open Meetings Law?

Governmental bodies often use advisory committees or task forces to provide them with advice or input before they make decisions on complex matters. Government officials and members of the public alike often wonder: Is an advisory body subject to Iowa's Open Meetings Law if it has no decision-making authority?

The answer is not always simple. Some advisory bodies are not technically governmental bodies at all. But, many advisory bodies are required to comply with all laws governing open meetings - such as providing prior notice, and public access to observe the meeting.

Here are examples of advisory bodies that are subject to Iowa's Open Meetings Law:

  • An advisory board, commission or task force created by the Governor or the Legislature to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.
  • Any advisory body expressly created by statute, executive order, formal resolution or ordinance of a political subdivision (e.g., a city council, school board, or county board of supervisors) to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues.
  • A multi-membered body formally and directly created by a state board, council, or commission that itself is subject to the Open Meetings Law -- if the multi-membered body's advice or recommendations are tantamount to decision making. (Example: some advisory bodies narrow the range of options for final decision by a governmental body.)

The Open Meetings Law is designed to shine light on deliberation and discussion, not just on final decisions. When important steps in deliberation or discussion will take place before an advisory body that is not covered by the Open Meetings Law, advisory bodies should consider whether to follow the Open Meetings Law voluntarily and allow the public to attend and observe.

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

"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins are designed to give information 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

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

On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org . Sunshine Advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens.