Sunshine Advisory Bulletin
A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller -- May 2004
Is There a Meeting After the Meeting?
Are there notice requirements for subcommittees of public bodies?
Governmental bodies such as county boards, school boards and city councils often conduct business in subcommittees, task forces or advisory committees composed of members of the full governmental body. They often do so on the same day and in the same place as the full governmental body. Do the same notice and agenda requirements apply to such committee meetings? How can the public keep informed about these committees?
Committees that are "formally-constituted subunits" of a governmental body may meet without any additional notice under the following circumstances:
- Public Announcement. No additional notice is required for a meeting of the subunit under the Open Meetings Law if the meeting of the subunit is announced at the meeting of the governmental body, and if the subunit meets during the meeting of the governmental body, during a recess in the meeting of a governmental body, or immediately following the meeting of the governmental body. Iowa Code sec. 21.4(3). The key is to assure the announcement reaches the public who attended the meeting of the full governmental body.
- Limited Subject Matter. The subject of the meeting of the subunit must "reasonably coincide" with the subjects "discussed or acted upon" by the governmental body. Iowa Code sec. 21.4(3). The key is to assure that the subjects for the meeting of the subunit are covered in the notice and tentative agenda for the meeting of the full governmental body.
Note: A meeting of a "subunit" on a different day or on a different subject would fall under the usual notice requirements of Iowa's Open Meetings Law. (Click here for related Sunshine Advisory from March 2003: “Are Advisory Bodies Subject to Iowa’s Open Meetings Law?”) )
In summary: Using committees to carry out government business is efficient, but openness is the goal. Governmental bodies may use committees that meet without further notice, but only when reasonable steps are taken to alert the public to the meeting, and only if the subjects are limited to those covered by the agenda for the full governmental body.
Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings may call the Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman Office -- toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)
"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins provide information on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws -- our "Sunshine Laws." The bulletins are a resource for public officials and citizens. Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.
Iowa Attorney General's Office: Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.