IPIB dismisses Trumbauer complaint
Trumbauer had filed a complaint with the IPIB alleging that a video recording of an after-meeting conversation between several people in city hall was a public record and the city had violated Iowa law by refusing to provide him a copy of the recording.
The recording in question was made both during and after a city council budget work session that took place in December 2017 in the basement meeting room of City Hall in Jesup. Mayor Larry Thompson and two city council members were apparently not aware that their after-meeting conversation was being video recorded.
An audio recording is typically made of all meetings by the city clerk using a hand-held digital recorder, up through the time of adjournment, as was the case for the December meeting. In the council chambers upstairs, both the hand-held digital audio recorder and a video camera are used to record council meetings. Both devices are turned off following adjournment of the meetings in the council chambers, and all council members and staff are aware that the meetings held there are recorded.
The dispute before the IPIB pitted two important rights against one another – the right of citizens to have access to public records and the expectation of privacy for conversations where none of the parties are aware that a recording is being made.
The IPIB’s final resolution, in a 6-1 vote, was to both find probable cause that the open records law may have been violated; but also declined to move the matter further into the courts through the IPIB. The board declined to take the case to trial as an exercise of administrative discretion. Trumbauer is free to continue to pursue the matter in District Court.
As part of the continuing process to bring resolution to the matter over the past year, the board had asked both parties to agree to the city’s request that Trumbauer be allowed to view the video, but not copy or disseminate it. The video would be destroyed after Trumbauer viewed it, according to the city’s proposed resolution. Trumbauer had not agreed to this proposed resolution according to IPIB documents.
The IPIB was formed several years ago by the Iowa Legislature to create a place where disputes over public records and open meetings could be resolved without the expense of going to court. The IPIB handles hundreds of complaints every year with the vast majority settled through dismissal through lack of probable cause, or other reasons, or through administrative resolution or remedial action ordered by the board.
More information, including all documents relating to this complaint, are available on the IPIB website, www.ipib.iowa.gov.
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