Sunshine Advisory Bulletin
A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller -- December 2003
What is the Cost for Noncompliance?
Monetary costs for violating Iowa's sunshine laws can be imposed on individual officials or can drain the budget of a governmental body.
Compliance with Iowa's Open Meetings Law and Public Records Law is serious business. A court will assess monetary damages against officials who violate the laws. Citizens who go to court and successfully enforce violations of the laws will recover costs and attorney fees. Who pays the damages assessed and the costs and attorney fees awarded when violations are established in court? Where does the money go?
The statutes allocate monetary costs for violating either the Open Meetings Law or the Public Records Law according to the following principles:
- Monetary damages against individuals. Each member of a governmental body who is found to have participated in a violation (and has no defense) will be assessed damages between $100 and $500. This money is paid to state government if the violation is by state officials, and to local government if the violation is by local officials.
- Attorney fees awarded to citizens. Citizens who bring successful enforcement actions in court will be awarded the costs of the litigation and reasonable attorney fees for the trial and any appeal. Litigation costs and attorney fees are paid by any officials who are assessed damages; if no one is assessed damages, costs and attorney fees are paid from the budget of the governmental body.
Remember: compliance is serious business. The sunshine laws can impose significant monetary costs for violations.
Citizens who have inquiries or complaints may call the Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman Office - toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)
"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins are designed to give information on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws - our "Sunshine Laws." Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney
Iowa Attorney General's Office: Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org. Sunshine Advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens.