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Iowa Governor Sued Over Open-Records Requests

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Friday, December 17, 2021   

Gov. Kim Reynolds is accused of violating Iowa's open-records laws in a lawsuit filed this week.

The suit, filed by the ACLU, includes watchdog and media organizations as plaintiffs. In the past year-and-a-half, they say, Reynolds' office has either ignored or refused to comply with their requests surrounding COVID-19 actions and other public-record matters.

Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU Iowa legal director, said the need for elected officials to honor these requests is a core function of democracy.

"Without access to information about what the government is doing on behalf of the people who put those elected officials in place," she said, "we really don't have the system of checks and balances in place that we need to, in order to maintain our democratic system of governance."

One of the records being sought involves videos Reynolds possibly recorded for meatpacking plant workers as COVID-19 spread through those facilities. Another plaintiff wants information about Iowa State Patrol members being sent to the U.S. border with Mexico. Reynolds' office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said Reynolds' failure to comply is a break from past governors of the Hawkeye State.

"This has been one of the most consequential time periods in Iowa history," he said, "but the governor and her staff have deprived the citizens of Iowa of documents and information they are entitled to receive."

He said those records are crucial in helping voters evaluate the governor's performance in leading the state through a public-health crisis and heightened political tensions. The suit, filed Thursday in Polk County District Court, seeks an order finding that Reynolds violated state law, in hopes of compelling her to turn over the requested information.


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