Enforcing Open Government

The state of Iowa is forming an agency dedicated to enforcing open government.

With approval obtained from the state legislature the governor will appoint a nine-member board that includes up to three media representatives and three local government officials. The board will have the ability to fine representatives of many state executive branch departments or local governments such as schools, cities and counties from $100 to $500 for violations and from $1,000 to $2,500 for knowing violations, a situation that advocates say would be rare.

I don’t agree with the fact that the governor’s office as well as the legislative and judicial branches of Iowa government are exempt from the enforcement legislation.

Getting information from government officials should be easy but in many instances it is not. Often times open government laws do not have any real teeth in terms of consequences for government officials that violate the law. In New York State if one sues to obtain public records and wins the court may require the losing side to pay for your attorney fees. Other than that there are no real consequences other than media embarassment to enforce open government laws.

Iowa is on the right track and other municipalities should follow suit.


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