The Iowa Supreme Court says an open records lawsuit against the governor can proceed. The Iowa Freedom of Information Council (FOI) and two others sued after open records requests from the governor’s office about the COVID pandemic were delayed five to 18 months. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the case can proceed based on the timeliness of when the records were produced. F-O-I Council executive director, Randy Evans, says he was gratified it was a unanimous decision.
Evans says there was an excellent discussion in the opinion about the need for a timely response, and what really constitutes a denial of a request for a public record.
Evans says they will now get a chance to argue the merits of the case as it goes back to the district court.
Governor Kim Reynolds released a statement following the ruling that said during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic her office shifted its entire focus to help Iowans navigate that difficult period. The statement says there was an unprecedented number of open records requests at the time and many of those went unfulfilled for a period. It says, “While we disagree that this lawsuit should continue, my office has eliminated the backlog of open records requests and is committed to upholding our responsibility to respond to any new requests in a timely manner.” Evans says the need for information during the pandemic didn’t subside, it increased.
The Iowa Capital Dispatch website and the Bleeding Heartland blog joined the F-O-I in the lawsuit.