The Iowa Public Information Board was contacted by this editor along with six other residents concerning actions taken by the Benton County Board of Supervisors.

Generally, I let the public do the official complaining and I just write about it. However, in the instance that I submitted a complaint about, I felt that the issue was egregious enough to file my own complaint. I have this silly idea that when elected officials are elected, they should be allowed to do their job, and another elected official cannot tell them not to. As was the case with kicking the Auditor out of a meeting that she, by law, is required to take notes on. But what do I know?

That was my issue.

Other issues filed by residents include the termination of the Board of Health, and the closed sessions without the Board of Health present but rather an employee of the BOH.

The IPIB said, "Because each of you filed complaints regarding the same issues, the IPIB is going to review them as a group." I don't blame them. Finally, some government body that is efficient.

Brett J. Toresdahl, the Deputy Director went on to tell us that they will also send a copy of that complaint "to the opposing party and that would be the Board of Supervisors and ask them for a response to the complaints." When they put all of that information together they will meet again to decide whether to accept the complaint or dismiss it.

A copy was sent to Benton County Attorney Ray Lough, and Tracy Seeman the chair of the Benton County Supervisors. The email sent to them reads, "Formal complaints have been filed with the Iowa Public Information Board by multiple individuals against the Benton County Board of Supervisors.

The complaint alleges a violation of Iowa Code Chapter 21 & 22.Please review the attached complaints and provide a response to the IPIB and opposing parties within two weeks. "
IPIB also sent out another request for recordings of closed session: "In responding to these Complaints, I wanted to give you notice that IPIB is specifically requesting the closed session recordings and minutes for those sessions not stated as closed for attorney-client discussions regarding litigation or the threat of litigation. Under Iowa Code section 23.6(6) IPIB has the authority to "[e]xamine, as deemed necessary by the board, a record of a governmental body or a government body that is the subject matter of a complaint, including any record that is confidential by law. Confidential records provided to the board by a governmental body or a government body shall continue to maintain their confidential status. Any member or employee of the board is subject to the same policies and penalties regarding the confidentiality of the document as an employee of the governmental body or a government body."
Please advise me as to how you will be providing these confidential records to ensure their confidential nature is protected.I understand that there are also closed sessions that are related to these complaints that were closed to receive attorney-client communications and advice. We are asking for information regarding these sessions to the maximum extent possible without violating attorney-client privilege."
At this point, the board is simply collecting information and will decide where to go from there.
On the same agenda is a complaint filed by Dakota Sellers concerning the City of Vinton from a year ago.
If you'd like to listen in on the meeting, it takes place on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. The city complaint is on item number VIII and number 2, the county is number 10 and 21 as well as 15. I'd suggest being near a place where you can plug in your phone.

Dial-in number: 877-304-9269 Conference Code: 664760#
Note: ALL phones MUST remain on mute unless you are addressing the Board. To unmute your phone, enter ##1 on your keypad

November 16, 2023, 1:00 p.m.

3rd Floor E/W Conference Room
Wallace Building
502 East 9th Street, Des Moines

1:00 PM - IPIB Meeting
I. Approval of agenda*
II. Approval of the October 19, 2023 minutes *
III. Public Forum (5-minute limit per speaker)
IV. Comments from the board chair. (McHugh)
V. Advisory Opinion - Deliberation/Action.
1. 23AO:0008 Debra Schiel-Larson - Chapter 22 - Draft documents confidentiality exception. 10/11/23 pending
VI. Cases involving Board Deliberation/Action. (Eckley)
1. 23FC:0060 Dina Raley - Chapter 22- Delaware County Sheriff 6/16/2023 - * Acceptance
2. 23FC:0072 Don Benedict - Chapter 22 - City of Sidney - 7/11/23 - * Informal Resolution Report
3. 23FC:0074 Chad Miller - Chapter 21- Scott County Board of Review 7/18/2023 - * Informal Resolution Report
4. 23FC:0081 Elijah Mathern - Chapter 21 - GMG Community School District - 8/10/23 and 23FC:0085 Jackie Stonewall - Chapter 21 - GMG Community School Board - 8/22/23 - * Consolidation & Dismissal
5. 23FC:0082 Mellisa Mattingly - Both Chapters - McCallsburg City Council - 8/3/23 - * Acceptance
6. 23FC:0091 Michelle Hillman - Chapter 21 - Grand Junction City Council 9/14/23 - * Dismissal
7. 23FC:0094 Matthew Jensen - Chapter 22 - Pottawatamie Co. Treasurer 9/28/23 - * Dismissal
8. 23FC:0096 Leslie Wiles - Chapter 21 - Redfield Public Library 10/9/23 - and 23FC:0097 Pauletta Cox - Chapter 21 - Redfield Public Library 10/9/23 - * Consolidation and Acceptance
9. 23FC:0100 Travis Johnson - Chapter 21 - Eddysville Blakesburg Fremont CSD Board 10/18/23 - *Acceptance
10. 23FC:0103 Crystl McCall - Both Chapters - Elk Horn City Council 10/23/23 - * Dismissal

VII. Matters Withdrawn, No Action Necessary. (Eckley)
1. 23FC:0065 Neetu Arnold - Chapter 22 - University of Northern Iowa 6/14/23 * Withdrawn
2. 23FC:0099 Steve Kirby - Chapter 22 - Warren County Auditor 10/17/23 - * Withdrawn
3. 23FC:0069 Roger Hurlbert - Chapter 22 - Montgomery County Assessor 6/26/23 - * Withdrawn

VIII. Pending Complaints. Informational Only (Eckley)
1. 22FC:0069 Mari Radtke - Chapter 22- City of Paulina 7/25/2022 - Probable Cause Report Pending
2. 22FC:0118 Dakoda Sellers - Chapter 22- City of Vinton 11/14/2022 - Pending Informal Resolution
3. 23FC:0053 Debra Schiel-Larson - Both Chapters - Indianola Community School District - 5/1/23
4. 23FC:0056 Ruth Bolinger - Chapter 21- Creston City Council 5/22/2023 - Pending Informal Resolution
5. 23FC:0063 Laurie Kramer - Chapter 21- City of Delhi 6/19/2023; & 23FC:0063 Greg Preussner - Chapter 21- City of Delhi - Pending Informal Resolution
6. 23FC:0083 Brendan Chaney - Chapter 21 - City of Iowa Falls - 8/14/23 - Information Gathering
7. 23FC:0086 Todd Banner - Chapter 22 - Iowa State University - 8/23/23 - Information Gathering
8. 23FC:0093 Randy Phelps - Chapter 22 - Boone Police Department 9/27/23 - Information Gathering
9. 23FC:0098 Joseph Foran - Chapter 21 - Audubon City Council 10/10/23 - Information Gathering
10. 23FC:0101 Braxton Morrison - Chapter 21 - Benton Co. Supervisors 10/18/23 - Information Gathering
11. 23FC:0102 Maggie Mangold - Chapter 21 - Benton Co. Supervisors 10/19/23 - Information Gathering

12. 23FC:0104 Hendrik van Pelt - Chapter 22 - City of West Des Moines 10/25/23 - Information Gathering
13. 23FC:0105 Jeff Law/Kourtnee Mammen - Chapter 21 - River Valley School Board 10/29/23 - Information Gathering
14. 23FC:0106 Clint Fichter - Chapter 22 - Iowa Ethics and Campaign Board 11/3/23 - Information Gathering
15. 23FC:0107 Dana Sanders - Both Chapters - Benton Co. Board of Supervisors 10/31/23; 23FC:0108 Kurt Karr 11/1/23; 23FC:0109 Valerie Close 11/3/23; 23FC:0110 Maggie Mangold 11/3/23; 23FC:0111 Kaitlin Emrich 11/4/23; 23FC:0112 Lu Karr 11/4/23; 23FC:0113 Molly Rach 11/5/23 - Consolidating & Information Gathering
16. 23FC:0114 John Bandstra - Chapter 21 - South Central Regional Airport Agency 11/6/23 - Information Gathering
17. 23FC:0115 Bert Bandstra - Chapter 21 - South Central Regional Airport Agency 11/10/23 - Information Gathering

IX. Committee Reports
1. Communications - (Toresdahl)
2. Legislative - (Eckley)
3. Rules - (Strawhun) - Meeting set for November 21, 2023 @ 1:00pm

X. Office status report.
1. Office Update * (Eckley)
2. Financial/Budget Update (FY23) * (Toresdahl)
3. Presentations/Trainings (Eckley) - Iowa Municipal Attorney Assn., Floyd County officials, Creston City Council, Sidney City Council
4. District Court Update (Strawhun)

XI. Next IPIB Board Meeting will be held in the Wallace Building, 3rd Floor, E/W Conference Room December 21, 2023 at 1:00 p.m.
XII. Adjourn


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GP November 15, 2023, 3:21 pm I think you will be disappointed by the outcome of IPIB's involvement. First, they really have no teeth. Second, what you allege is a violation isn't a violation. The only required members of a closed session are the supervisor's themselves. From there, the supervisors may permit whomever they want to be present and may also exclude whomever they want.

Editor's Note: That's what I thought until I read a lawsuit where the judge said otherwise...
GP November 15, 2023, 5:36 pm The only case from Iowa I am familiar with that is similar determined that the only reason there was a violation was because after they excused the auditor there was no one left to take notes. That is not the case here. Additionally, the court in that case determined that even that violation didn't matter because substantial, not absolute, complaince is all that matters.

Editor's note:
BF November 15, 2023, 8:39 pm This is outstanding news! Great work, Valerie Close!
MP November 15, 2023, 9:42 pm Again, I ask;

How about a story and timeline summarizing all the settlements and problems that the County and this BOS has been a part of in the past few years? Off the top of my head, there were issues around nepotism, Veterans preference, who got hired in the Co Attorney's Office, and may well be others that I'm not recalling. A reminder as to which ones included financial settlements as part of the resolution to these issues would be helpful and good journalism.

Regardless, the people of Benton County are paying the price for for these issues; either directly financially through settlements, current or future increases in cost of insurance risk pool coverage, in terms of the reputation of the County to be a fair and safe place to work or a combination of any or all of the above.

Editor’s note: You have them all listed right here…there was a follow up story on the nepotism/veteran preference case right after the harassment case story. As for hiring in the County Attorney’s office, following an election the winner can fire the whole staff and appoint new employees.
DE November 17, 2023, 4:47 am I'm still curious why Mr. Lough was voted out ban in the 90s. Was the past prologue or was it issues unrelated to whatever is going on these days?
GP November 17, 2023, 4:35 pm Valerie, for one the link you provided is to an AG opinion, not a case. May seem like little detail, but I assure you it is not. AG opinions have no weight or authority. Second, the case I referenced is newer than that opinion and the Iowa Supreme Court (who is the final authority on Iowa law) said it was no big deal to exclude the deputy auditor.

Editor's Note: Could be, you probably have more legal education than I do, so I'll go with it.
GP November 17, 2023, 4:39 pm Valerie says "following an election the winner can fire the whole staff and appoint new employees." Yes and no. Only to the same extent any employer can fire the whole staff and hire new people. There is nothing special about this situation that gives any special authority. The firings must still be legal - yes Iowa is an at will employment state and there does not have to be a reason given for firing someone, but it still can't be for an illegal reason (ex: discrimination, retaliation, engaging in a protected activity).

Editor's Note: There ya go, making me edit again...Me thinks the new job isn't keeping you busy enough.