Iowa Open Meetings Law
The Iowa Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 21 of the Iowa code define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Iowa. For more information go the page or go to Iowa sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in Iowa.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Iowa in 2010.
Statement of purpose
The statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states, "This chapter seeks to assure, through a requirement of open meetings of governmental bodies, that the basis and rationale of governmental decisions, as well as those decisions themselves, are easily accessible to the people. Ambiguity in the construction or application of this chapter should be resolved in favor of openness."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law defines a meeting as any gathering, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a public body with the intention of deliberating or deciding upon public issues.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- gatherings for social purposes
- gatherings where no public business is discussed
- Collective bargaining planning
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as any board or commission of the state or its political subdivisions or any boards created by government bodies. The act specifically includes all advisory boards and any non-profits who conduct wagering or gambling whose debt falls on the state.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- County or district fair committees or agricultural societies
The legislature is exempted from the Iowa Open Meetings Law because they are not included in the definition of public body found at Iowa Code 21.2 as they are not explicitly mentioned and the legislature was not enacted by statute.
Governmental bodies are required to give at least 24 hours notice of all meetings, which must include the time and location of the meeting and the tentative agenda. The governmental body is also required to notify all news agencies who have requested specific notification of any meetings. The act permits emergency meetings to be held, so long as they are justified within the minutes of the meetings.
Subcommittees of government bodies can hold unannounced meetings immediately following or during the open meetings of the committee of which they are apart if they announce those meetings during the larger committee meeting.
The act requires that all government bodies record minutes of meetings including the time and place of the meeting, the members present, topics discussed and any votes taken. The minutes are considered public records.
The act also permits anyone in attendance to record the meeting for their own personal records.
The act permits the use of electronic meetings if holding a physical meeting is extremely difficult or impossible, provided that the meeting still meets all the requirements of the open meetings law.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
No final action can be taken during a closed session. The act requires that detailed minutes and a audio recording be taken of every executive session, for the purposes of trial discovery in the instance that the executive session is questioned. A governmental body may hold an executive session, with a 2/3 vote of the body, to discuss the following topics:
- records exempted under the Iowa Open Records Law
- Patent applications
- litigation strategy and items that fall under attorney-client privilege
- licensing examinations and applications
- student hearings
- current law enforcement investigations
- when considering hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting public employees in order to protect the character of the individuals
- the purchase or sale of real estate
Anyone may take action against a public body whom they feel has violated the open meetings law. If a violation has occurred, the court may assess fines to the members of the board of $100-$500. The court may choose not to impose fines if an individual member voted against the measure, if the members of the board made a good faith attempt to follow the law, or if the board relied upon the opinion of a court, the attorney general or other public attorney. The court may also order the board members to collectively pay for the attorney fees of the plaintiff. In addition, the court can void any action taken during an illegal meeting. Finally, the court may remove from office any individuals who have three separate violations of the open meetings laws within one term of office.
State of Iowa
Des Moines (capital)
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Auditor of State | Director of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Secretary of Agriculture | Director of Natural Resources | Commissioner of Labor | Chair of Utilities |