The Audubon City Council Monday voted to make null and void action reached during its Jan. 13th meeting with regard to the appointment of a new City Clerk, and opted to have current Clerk Lora Hansen as the “Hold over” clerk, while at the same time seeking applications for her possible successor or an interim clerk. Action on the appointment of a City Clerk or Interim City Clerk was tabled, because as with the January 13th meeting, there was not a sufficient notice of publication of the Council’s intent.
Audubon Co. Atty. Francine Andersen (Ric Hanson/photo)
Prior to their vote to keep Hansen on, the Council heard from Audubon County Attorney Francine Andersen. Andersen said she had not filed a claim in District Court or a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), with regard to the Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records laws some on the Council may have allegedly violated in making its initial decision on Jan. 13th not to reappoint Hansen, because she said she hopes to have the problem resolved “informally.” She acknowledged, however, there was “Probable Cause” to file a complaint.
Andersen said the Council could avoid legal action by being accountable for its actions, including submitting voluntarily to her all electronic communications, such as e-mails, faxes, text messages, etc. that pertain to the City Clerk’s position, whether they were deleted or not, from Nov. 2nd, 2013 through Feb. 2nd, 2014. She also suggested the City might avoid a future such fiasco by knowing the law better. That includes educating the Mayor, Council and City Clerk’s Office on the Open Meetings/Records Laws, with specific focus on agendas and electronic communications, as well as timely compliance to public records requests.
She also requested specific information with regard to meetings not held in front of the public. Failure to do so within 60-days she said, would result in a complaint being filed and the subsequent forensic examination of all public computers and file servers under the control of the City. During the Council’s meeting on Jan. 27th, Dawn Rohe (Roy), City Administrator in Manning, also made a request under the Iowa Open Records law, for documents pertaining to actions leading up to the Jan. 13th meeting, and any other pertinent information. She said to date, she had not heard from some of the City Officials with regard to her request. The Iowa Attorney General says within 20-days is the “appropriate time” to respond to such requests.
Councilperson Teresa Murray offered to give Rohe her City owned laptop for examination of any e-mails. John Whetzal said he had turned his e-mails in to City Attorney Dave Wiederstein. Mayor Sam Kauffman said he was “Not a techie,” and would have his wife Lois forward those e-mails to Rohe. Wiederstein said with the exception of one e-mail on Nov. 25th which may be considered private and not part of the public record, he has, and would continue to comply with, the request.