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Sunshine Advisory Bulletin

A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller --January 2009

“Sunshine Advisories”
Helping People Understand
Iowa’s Open Meetings and Public Records Laws

The Iowa Attorney General issues regular “Sunshine Advisory” bulletins as part of a commitment to promoting open government. The bulletins discuss specific aspects of Iowa’s Open Meetings Law and Public Records Law (Chapter 21 and Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code) Iowa’s “sunshine laws.” These are the laws that assure public access to meetings and to public records at all levels of government in Iowa. The Attorney General has issued more than 60 Sunshine Advisories since November 2001.

Here are a few highlights summarized from past Sunshine Advisories:

  • Every person has the right to examine and copy public records, unless confidential under law.

  • A government body must make copies of open records available at the actual cost of copying.

  • No one is required to provide a reason for examining or copying a public record.

  • The public can drop in at any time during customary office hours to examine open records.

  • The public can have access to open records in any form – paper, tapes, or electronic files.

  • A government body must respond to requests for records sent by phone, mail, fax or email.

  • Open meetings can close only for one of eleven specific reasons provided by statute.

  • The public is entitled to use cameras and recording devices at open meetings.
  • Minutes of an open meeting must show the action taken and the vote of each member.

  • A government body is never allowed to use secret ballots when voting in open session.
  • An agenda is required for a closed session, even though the public cannot attend the session.

  • Minutes and tape recordings of closed sessions must be maintained for at least one year.

For a detailed index and copies of all issued Sunshine Advisories, and for other “sunshine” information, visit our web site at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org (click on “open government”).

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.)