Newspaper Archive of
N. Warren Town and County News
Norwalk, Iowa
July 31, 2014     N. Warren Town and County News
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July 31, 2014

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Thursday, July 31, 2014 L N/Warren Town and County News Page Seven When does an advisory board or . committee have to comply with the open meetings law? Editor's Note: This is a monthly column prepared by the Iowa Public Information Board to update Iowans on the IPIB's activities and .provide information on some of the issues routinely addressed by the board. Open.iowa OV Iowa Courts have not yet de- finitively answered that ques- tion, but they do give general guidance. The basic idea is if an advisory group makes recommendations to a gov- ernmental body, then the ad- visory group is likely covered by the open meetings law. On the other hand, if the advisory group only provides objective factual information (without any corresponding advice or recommendations) to the gov- ernmental body, then the ad- visory group is probably not subject to the open meetings law. The challenge comes in determining at what point the "information" prOvided by an advisory group crosses the line from "fact-finding" to "advice" giwing. If an ad- visory group gets too close to the line between "informa- tion" and "advice," it is likely subject to the pen meetings law. -Advisory groups and the ap- plication of the open meetings statute is a murky area of the law. The answer: in large part is determined by how these groups are formed and their "'charter." The applicable statu- tory provisions in Iowa Code Section 21.2 containthe clause "to develop and make recom- mendations on public policy," The crux of the matter is the meaning of this clafise. Some have inferred from a statement made by the Iowa Supreme Court that it means more than just giving advice. From the context of the statement giv- ing rise to that inference, if the specific issue is presented to the Court a likely resolution would seem to be an examina- tion of whether public policy is influenced and to what degree. A test could be to examine how the creating governmental body intends to use the prod- uct it expects to receive from the group. If the creating body plans to take formal action on the product itself, the group could expect to be subject to the open meetings law. But, if the charge given the group is 'to merely gather information, without recommendation, for use by the parent governmen- tal body to aid the parent in its development of public policy, the open meetings law would not apply. Certainly the quoted clause has meaning. Without it, all such groups would be sub- ject to the law without qualifi- cation. The application of the open meetings law to groups is subject to the qualification; it is just that the courts have not yet clearly articulated the limits of that qualification. Note that if a number of mem- bers of the parent governmental body that would constitute a quorum of that body partici- pate in a meeting of the advi- sory group when public policy is discussed, whether or not as members of the group, the open meetings law would apply. Note also that even if a group does not come within the pur- view of the open meetings law, it may still hold public meet- ings. This is a recommended as a good business practice. IP" /