When governmental bodies violate the open meetings law, the most common excuse is “We made a mistake.” Appanoose County Auditor Linda Demry needs to explain why her office failed to adequately inform the public of two very important meetings the Appanoose County Board of Supervisors held on May 6 and May 13 to interview candidates to fill the vacant county attorney position.
This was no mistake. This was intentional, direct action designed to shut off scrutiny of the process of finding a new county attorney. It is unforgivable. Demry, who is responsible for giving notification, allegedly broke the open meetings law which requires governments to give “reasonable notice” to the public of an upcoming public meeting.
Here’s the definition:
“Reasonable notice shall include advising the news media who have filed a request for notice with the governmental body and posting the notice on a bulletin board or other prominent place which is easily accessible to the public and clearly designated for that purpose at the principal office of the body holding the meeting, or if no such office exists, at the building in which the meeting is to be held.”
The word “shall” has specific meaning when it is used in laws. It means the action is required. It is non-negotiable. The Iowegian has filed a request for notice of county meetings. Under the law, the auditor was required to send a copy of the agenda for these meetings and failed to do so.
Here’s what the Iowa Attorney General’s office has to say about the open meetings law.
“[P]roviding notice must include: 1. Advising the news media who have filed a request for notice.”
The attorney general’s office didn’t say the county should advise the media. It didn’t say it was a good idea. It said it must be done. Further, the attorney general’s office said failure to send the notice “renders a subsequent meeting a ‘closed session.’”
We call upon the Iowa Attorney General’s office to open an investigation into these events and for prosecution of the county officials involved.