Government Records Iowa: Where to Obtain Government Records for the State of Iowa?
The Iowa Public Records Law was enacted in 1967 to open the doors of the government to public scrutiny. It gives every citizen of Iowa the right to examine and access all public records which are not confidential by law.
All the records pertaining to governmental bodies, officials and employees are covered under this law. Each of these bodies is required to designate a “lawful custodian” who is responsible for keeping their records.
Types of Records
In Iowa, the term “record” refers to all kinds of documents, tape or information belonging to a governmental body stored in any medium. It also includes emails, websites, blogs and all records of investment of public funds.
However, several records are also kept confidential. Some examples are medical results, criminal intelligence data, trade secrets protected by law and mental and hospitalization records.
When are the Records Made Available?
All government records are made accessible to the public any time during customary office hours. However, if the customary office hours are less than thirty hours per week, the rights may be exercised at any time between 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m from Monday to Friday, except on legal holidays.
As for confidential information, the Iowa Public Records Law allows its release when “ordered by a court, by the lawful custodian of the records, or by another person duly authorized to release such information…” They are also made available to governing bodies who need confidential information to perform their duties.
How to Access Records
The Iowa Public Records Law gives the right to anyone to examine the public record while it is in the possession of the custodian. No governmental body is allowed to partner with a non-governmental entity to hold or store these records.
Every citizen of Iowa can, without question:
- examine a public record with no charge
- photograph or make copies of the record
- publish or disseminate the information on the record to the public
Most requests to obtain government records are handled immediately or as soon as possible. The access to confidential information is usually delayed to allow the custodians to determine the nature of the request and the individual requesting it. However, this delay usually does not exceed 10 business days or 20 calendar days.
Here are some more points to remember while requesting public records:
- The custodian cannot force the person to identify themselves to access a public record
- The records can be released in writing, telephone or other electronic means
- A spoken request is sufficient to get information (a written request is helpful for complex matters)
- The public records cannot be withheld by the custodian without any legal authority
SSN Numbers and 911 Tapes
Social Security Numbers are not treated as confidential. However, the State law required some of its information to be kept confidential. As a general rule, SSNs that are voluntarily provided can be disclosed to anyone who requests it.
The 911 tapes or transcripts are public records and must be disclosed upon request. However, these tapes may be confidential if it is part of an ongoing investigation or as communication from someone from outside of government which would not occur if made public. The results of releasing these transcripts may vary based upon the circumstances so a custodian can withhold them by law.
Iowa Public Information Board
Even though the Iowa Public Records Law clearly states that public records can be accessed by anyone, there are some aggrieved citizens. The Iowa Public Information Board provides a free legal resource for citizens about record laws and complaints about alleged violations of their rights.
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