Three separate times in October 2020, the Manly City Council failed to properly adhere to open and accessible meeting guidelines found in the state of Iowa Code.
That allegation comes in a complaint from area resident John Choate which went to the Iowa Public Information Board. In November, the board posted its opinion that the parties involved should work with board staff to reach an informal resolution.
According to Manly City Clerk Dee Dunbar, the Manly City Council will consider such action at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Jan. 18.
Based on the filing to the Iowa Public Information Board, the Manly City Council had issues with meetings on Oct. 5, Oct. 12 and Oct. 19.
Keeping a record
It's recounted in the filing that on Oct. 5 telephone access to the council was disconnected 30 minutes prior to the end of the meeting. The somewhat similar complaint for Oct. 19 states that the mayor "announced a closed session and disconnected access prior to the motion and vote to enter closed session." That allegation then ends by saying "In addition, the closed session was not audio recorded" which is required by Section 21.5(5)(a) of Iowa Code.
As context for those events, the Iowa Public Information Board includes perspective from Tom Meyer who is an attorney for the Manly City Council.
"Counsel (Meyer) agreed that the Mayor did disconnect meeting access on Oct. 5, 2020, and that the Mayor inadvertently disconnected meeting access while the Council was still in open session on Oct. 19, 2020," the posting on the board's page states. "He noted that Council staff realized that the recording device would not work at the beginning of the closed session, but that the city clerk took minutes of the closed session."
The complaint from Oct. 12 is of a different variety.
In that case, Choate alleges the Council met on that Monday, without posting notice, at 5 p.m. The post from the Iowa Public Information Board outlines that "Meetings of governmental bodies shall be preceded by public notice as provided in section 21.4."
Per Meyer's context in the post, the Manly City Council did not meet until 7 p.m. on that Monday: "Prior to that meeting, the city clerk was working, and the Mayor met with two out of five council members to interview candidates for an open position. He provided proper notice of the meeting scheduled for 7 p.m."
To resolve the allegations, the Iowa Public Information Board set out four items for the parties to agree to.
The first is that the council will acknowledge in an open meeting that requirements for public access were not met and that acknowledgement will be recorded in the meeting minutes.
The mayor and city clerk will then need to make a checklist for providing electronic access to the public at all open meetings.
The third item states that, along with those measures, the council shall "conduct training during an open meeting for all council members, mayor, and city clerk on Iowa Code chapter 21 and 22 (Sunshine Laws)."
The list then concludes that the council shall "approve this resolution during an open meeting and include the full text in the minutes of said meeting." Once that happens, a copy of those minutes would need to go to the Iowa Public Information Board.
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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.