# Transparency



When "reasonable" takes a turn that is not

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

“Reasonable” is a word that is used often in Iowa’s laws. Reasonable fees. Reasonable rules. Reasonable efforts. Reasonable force.

But events in recent weeks show government officials are not always following what many Iowans would think the term means. And when government officials deviate from “reasonable,” they should not be surprised if their standing or the stature of their agency suffers in the public’s eyes.

Consider the Linn-Mar Community School District.

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Ongoing transparency problems in Iowa's GOP-controlled government

Doris J. Kelley is a former member of the Iowa House and former Iowa Board of Parole Chair, Vice-Chair and Executive Director.

When former Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed executive order 85 in March 2014, he stated, “transparency provides Iowans the necessary access to information to hold our government accountable and our Open Records Act is essential to ensuring openness,” adding, “Our administration has maintained a steadfast commitment to a transparent government.”

Branstad held weekly press briefings to answer journalists’ questions.

However, when Kim Reynolds became governor in 2017, a few months after Republicans gained full control of the legislature, transparency went out the window. Accessing many kinds of government data has become more difficult.

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Secrecy won't build trust after school cyber attacks

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.

These days, I stand in front of audiences and engage in what is politely called “public speaking” more often than even Mr. Gentry ever imagined when I showed up at his office door 55 years ago with a bug-eyed expression of concern.

Mr. Gentry was the guidance counselor at Davis County High School. He was in charge of class scheduling. What brought me to his doorstep was noticing I would be taking “Speech” class that semester.

Before I could say anything, however, he presciently said, “You probably are wondering about the Speech class. You will thank me someday.” That “someday” has arrived. You were correct, Mr. Gentry.

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Iowa board advises prompt responses to records requests

The Iowa Public Information Board is advising records custodians to acknowledge public records requests “within the first few business days of receipt,” and to provide information at that time on possible fees and a timeline for producing the records.

The board approved an advisory opinion on “Timeliness of responding to record requests” during an August 18 meeting, where members also voted not to proceed with draft administrative rules on open records requests.

Representatives of government bodies and some state legislators had pushed back against the draft rules, released in July. In particular, some objected that the board lacked authority to issue a rule stating custodians “must acknowledge” receipt of records requests within two business days. (Iowa’s open records law, known as Chapter 22, sets no such deadline.) Some public comments also argued it would be unworkable to require governments to acknowledge requests received through social media.

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Iowa campaign regulator may require attribution for political texts

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board may soon clarify whether state laws on attribution statements apply to some kinds of political text messages, the board’s executive director Zach Goodrich told Bleeding Heartland.

Goodrich plans to draft an advisory opinion that would confirm when text messages are “electronic general public political advertising” subject to Iowa’s law requiring disclosure of who is responsible for express campaign advocacy.

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If Grandma can Zoom, so can the government

Randy Evans: Too many government boards refuse to offer the virtual access that has become a part of everyday life for many Iowans.

In my day job, I wear the hat of the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has been around for 40-plus years.

We advocate on behalf of the public and journalists for government transparency and accountability to the people of this state.

Periodically, I speak to groups of government employees and elected officials. One question that often comes up in those settings and in individual conversations with government leaders is some version of, “How are we doing?”

These days, this is what I tell them if they ask.

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