Iowa government corruption
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IA The Iowa Association of School Boards is considering seeking a judges ruling to exempt documents held and created by the publicly funded non-profit prior to the July 1 passage of legislation which brought the board under the public records law. The board has been involved in a number of investigations, ranging from the FBI, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee. It seeks to exempt not only emails and information created prior to the new law but all new records pertaining to events and decisions made prior to the laws passage. While the attorney general has refused to issue an opinion, the Board hopes to take the matter to court as well as lobbying for a direct legislative exemption for the pre-law records. To read more about Iowa's policy towards publicly funded private entities, and other private groups which may fall under the public records law, please see, Private agency, public dollars-Iowa.
The Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) provides services, education and support to members of Iowa school boards, and is supported by public money in the form of dues collected from school boards. However, the association believes it is not obligated to follow the same rules of openness as state and local governments, even though state lawmakers passed legislation last spring specifically requiring the association to abide by Iowa's open-meetings and open-records laws.
IASB drew the attention of lawmakers after the Des Moines Register's Clark Kauffman reported some of the association's top executives were collecting lavish salaries and expenses at a time when its finances were in disarray as a result of questionable money management.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver's top budget assistant, Dick Oshlo, made an unusual mid-year adjustment to the state budget assessment, projecting that the state would end FY2011 with a larger surplus than his prior projections. The latest estimates of the surplus place it at $914.3 million, up nearly $300 million from the prior projection. The increase was due in part to increased state tax collections. The governor's opponent in the gubernatorial race questioned the timing of the announcement.
Des Moines, IA This past week the Iowa Governor Chet Culver responded to a request for emails sent by the Department on Aging by requiring an up front payment of $744 before they even considered whether or not to release the records. The fees come from the governors policy to charge hourly fees up front to determine if the records in question are exempt or subject to the act and in no way guarantees the release of the records. The policy, backed by the Governor and the Attorney General has come under fire from members of the opposite party. 
In Iowa, Cedar Rapids police say the 42-year-old May has been charged with first degree theft following an investigation.
May works in business services and is responsible for cash receipts. The district released that the police department made them aware of the possible embezzlement on August 18th. Subsequently, the district began an internal investigation. May is now on administrative leave pending her termination.
The district contacted the State Auditor's Office, asking them to conduct an independent audit, which could take several months. The missing funds from the embezzlement are covered by insurance.
Lawyers from the Iowa Attorney General’s office still had not answered the question late today, three days before a high-profile Iowa Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage takes effect."
"A watered-down version of a plan to update Iowa’s open records laws was passed by the House today with promises from lawmakers that much more will be done in the future.
“This bill is not going to make everyone happy and it shouldn’t,” said Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, who led debate on the bill. “This is going to be a fluid, continuing process.”
Citizens who are refused public documents often either give up or are left spending thousands of dollars in attorney fees, supporters of the legislation have said."
"We are going to go back and try and pull up as much information for him as we can," said Johnston City Manager Jim Sanders."
"Some of the amendments adopted last week pose a retreat from the amount of transparency and openness that currently exists in Iowa. It is just bad public policy," Ombudsman Bill Angrick wrote in a letter to key lawmakers."
"As with most everything today, when people want to do business with the government, the place they go is the Internet. They're discovering a mother lode of public information a mere keystroke away.
Government at all levels maintains vast warehouses of information, much of which is migrating from paper to digital form, and increasingly it is publicly available, free for the taking on the Internet."
"In his first two years in office, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver rarely used his state e-mail account, relying instead on a private server and computer in what freedom-of-information advocates decried as an effort to skirt public records laws.
But after The Associated Press began questioning Culver aides about the matter, the governor changed his policy and has begun using his state e-mail account for public business."
"The state of Iowa would have to launch a searchable Web site available to the public to catalog how tax dollars are spent under a bill proposed Wednesday in the Iowa Legislature.
Republican supporters in both houses of the Legislature said during a news conference at the Statehouse that such a Web site would allow for greater transparency in state government by turning all of Iowa’s citizens into budget watchdogs.
They likened keeping track of taxpayer dollars in Iowa to searching through a maze, but they said the proposed Web site would streamline the process."
"It's good that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has pledged to more aggressively enforce the state's open-meetings and open-records laws. That, however, does not mean the Legislature should abandon a bill nearly enacted last session that would go even further to keep government open to Iowans.
The attorney general has assigned a lawyer in his office to handle cases when local governments are accused of violating state laws intended to make government transparent to the public. Miller's office will consider enforcement actions based on complaints from citizens, either directly or forwarded by the Office of Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman, which reported receiving 275 complaints or questions from citizens about public meetings and records in 2008."
"Iowa governments would have greater authority to black out personal information from public records under proposals recommended by a legislative committee.
Advocates say the proposals would protect citizens from identity theft.
But opponents say the unintended results could be alarming, particularly if the public is unable to differentiate between, for example, a convicted sex offender and another citizen with the same name.
"The public has more to fear from government records containing information about them of which they are unaware than the release of information pertaining to them," said Bill Monroe, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association."
"The Attorney General and Ombudsman enhance enforcement and compliance efforts relating to Iowa’s Open Meetings and Public Records laws. Attorney General Tom Miller today announced enhancements of his office’s role in enforcing the state’s open meetings and public records laws.
Miller said Tuesday that he has appointed an Assistant Attorney General to specifically handle such cases, and that he has reached out to media groups and others, inviting them to help by reporting violations. He said his office will continue education and outreach efforts in this area and he also asked the public to contact the State Ombudsman with complaints needing investigation."
"Gov. Chet Culver's staff has delayed sharing with Iowans a list of recommended budget cuts given to the governor from state departments, an issue being reviewed by the Iowa attorney general.
Iowans not only have the right to know, but also the need to know what state services could be cut before decisions are made so that the ideas may be publicly vetted, some groups say.
Culver is expected to cut as much as $40 million from the state's $6.1 billion budget next week, using the recommendations from department heads that he requested last month."
"Efforts to protect Iowans from identity theft could jeopardize access to public records and hamper background checks in hiring, open record advocates told lawmakers today.
“I might be accused of being schizophrenic on this subject but there are definitely challenges and I think the solution is the Legislature,” said William Angrick, Iowa Citizens’ Aide Ombudsman. “Our elected representatives and senators need to address what they think the best public policy should be.”"
"A former University of Iowa vice president who was fired in the aftermath of a sexual assault investigation has filed an open records request with his former employer.
Phillip Jones was dismissed in September."
"The Iowa Department of Human Services says anyone wanting access to selected e-mails about the decisions made at the troubled Glenwood home for the disabled will first have to pay $2,280.
Last week, The Des Moines Register asked for eight weeks' worth of department e-mails related to the state-run Glenwood Resource Center, where 10 residents have died this year.
In response, department spokesman Roger Munns said there were 6,850 e-mails that were potentially relevant to the Register's request made under Iowa's open-records law."
"The UI entered into a lawsuit with the Des Moines Register Tuesday, seeking clearer guidelines in regard to public-records requests.
The suit - filed on behalf of the UI by the Iowa Attorney General's Office - is in response to an Oct. 1 request by the Register, which asked the UI for all documents related to sexual assaults involving UI students within the past three years."
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