Dubuque v. Dubuque Racing Association, Ltd was a case before the Iowa Supreme Court in 1988 concerning the applicability of open records laws to private corporations.
This case established that the mere inclusion of public officials on non-profit boards of directors did not result in that non-profit becoming subject to the Iowa Open Records Law.
- Dubuque Racing Association, Ltd. (DRA) is a private for profit organziation, licensed to conduct dog-racing, including parimutuel wagering. The DRA began in 1982 as an infpormal committee to discuss the potential for a race track in Dubuque. The Informal committee incorporated itself to qualify for racing permits. Some of the members on the committee were also on the city council.
- In 1984, the city of Dubuque funded the construction of a race track which they promptly leased to the DRA with the obligation that the DRA would pay off the bonds used to fund the track.
- The DRA was required to maintain boos and records and file them with the city clerk relating to finances and any interactions with state regulatory agencies.
- In May of 1985, the city of Dubuque modified its lease so as it force three members of the Dubuque city council and the city manager into the DRA's board of directors. Prior to the acceptance of this resolution, the DRA adopted a board confidentiality agreement. After the councilmembers joined the board, the minutes of board meetings were made available only for inspection and were not delivered to the board members. THe city manager also kept a copy of the minutes with the city clerk.
- On September 5, 1985, the Telegraph Herald submitted a records request to the city for the minutes of the DRA board meetings.
- The City and the DRA filed suit in court, seeking to determine if the records in question were public records.
- The trial court ruled in favor of the city.
- DRA appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The Trial Court ruled in favor of the newspapers, ordering the documents released and awarding attorney fees to the newspapers.
The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the trial court and ruled in favor of the DRA. Citing Howard v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., the court first stated that historically they have granted access to records in the possession of public bodies but which may not have originated with those public bodies. However, the court determined that the critical question was whether or not the city council members in both attending the DRA board meetings and in holding the minutes were acting in their official capacity and if the release of the minutes will aid in public scrutiny of officials. The court rejected both of these contentions. First and foremost, the court determined that the management o the track was not a public function of the city government being transferred to a non-profit The court also established that the mandatory membership did not result in the councilmembers acting in their official capacity on the DRA's board. Finally, the court determined that the release of records would not increase public scrutiny of officials but instead open up public scrutiny of the non-profit. Because they reversed the judgment and ruled in favor of the DRA, the court was also not entitled to deliver attorney's fees to the newspapers.