Council addresses complaint with ordinance change
By Kim Adams

The Jesup City Council addressed a complaint filed with the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) regarding a work session at a council meeting by eliminating “work session” meetings from the city’s ordinances.

Meeting in regular session Nov. 15, the council passed all required readings of an ordinance change that eliminated previous references to “work session” meetings in Chapter 5.06 of the city code.

Work sessions had been added to Chapter 5.06 several years ago to create an opportunity for the city council to hold meetings where a specific topic or topics could be delved into at great depth. These work sessions were often used to go through department budget requests line by line – a lengthy process. Work sessions could be used for other topics as well. What separated “work sessions” from regular or special meetings was that by this ordinance, the council was allowed to discuss items, but no action could be taken at the work session meeting. Public notice requirements for work sessions were the same as for regular meetings or special meetings, as required by Iowa law.

Former mayor Larry Thompson had filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board on Oct. 16, alleging that the Jesup City Council had violated Iowa Code by failing to “set a date for workshop but continued city council meeting into workshop without separate notification of two different meetings to the public.” This allegation was related to the Oct. 4 Jesup City Council meeting where the meeting agenda had listed: “WORKSESSION – FUTURE PROJECT” as the last agenda item for the meeting. The minutes of the Oct. 4 meeting included the discussion of “the Community Center project, North Street re-paving, Young and 10th Street Water and Sewer Main project, 220th Street Sanitary Sewer Extension and the Wastewater Treatment Plan project” as the discussion topics for this agenda item.

IPIB Executive Director Margaret E. Johnson, J.D. wrote in her response to Thompson’s complaint that “Iowa Code Chapter 21 does not differentiate between a regular meeting, a workshop, a worksession, a special meeting, or any other word that could be used to describe a gathering of a majority of members to deliberate or take action.”

Johnson further wrote “if a gathering meets the definition provided by Iowa Code section 21.2(2), then the requirements of Iowa’s open meetings laws must be followed. It is not necessary that a governmental body hold a separate meeting even if described as a worksession on the agenda.”

Johnson recommended dismissal of Thompson’s complaint as “legally insufficient” for further action by the IPIB. The IPIB met Nov. 18 to act on Thompson’s complaint.

Jesup City Attorney Heather Prendergast recommended that the council eliminate work sessions from the city code, which the council accomplished at their Nov. 15 meeting.

Other business

Farmers State Bank and BankIowa both presented proposals for the city’s banking business. The council chose to stay with Farmers State Bank, which has provided service to the city for the past three years.

The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall.
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