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Media groups sue Iowa governor over open records law

Kim Reynolds
Posted at 4:52 PM, Dec 16, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP AND KMTV) — Three media organizations and their reporters are suing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, alleging she has repeatedly violated the state's open records laws by ignoring requests for government records.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is representing Laura Belin, who writes the liberal Bleeding Heartland blog; Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council; and Clark Kauffman, a reporter for the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

They say Reynolds’ office has refused public record requests for months. The lawsuit asks a judge to require Reynolds' office to supply requested records and to comply with future requests. A spokesman for the Republican governor didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Iowa's open records law was written expressly so that politicians and others couldn't do exactly this kind of stonewalling. Gov. Reynolds is not above the law," Belin said.

Belin is requesting records related to meatpacking plants dealing with the coronavirus, copies of communications asking the governor to approve or veto specific legislation, and records about private use of the governor's residence.

Evans said Reynolds has departed from prior Iowa governors' transparency. Evans requested records related to the deployment of members of the Iowa State Patrol to Texas to aid in border security in August.

"Unfortunately, the Governor’s office continued to unreasonably flout the law, which requires that records be provided in a reasonable period of time," said Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa.

"But we’re long past the point when a delay might be considered reasonable. At this point, the delays are beyond the pale. Our clients would have much preferred the Governor’s office follow the law than have to take this legal action just to be able to get the information they need to do their job to cover matters of high public interest in these demanding times."