Adhering to several “rules of thumb” should help protect a member of a governmental body from liability for damages and from litigation under Chapter 21:
- Become familiar with the Act’s requirements; address questions about the law to the government body’s legal counsel. Or contact the Iowa Public Information Board for advice.
- Assure that the governmental body follows the Act’s requirements for notifying the public and press and for making and preserving records.
- Presume that meetings will be open, unless there is a clear showing of need for a closed meeting specifically authorized by the Act.
- Vote against the closing of a meeting unless an exemption of Chapter 21.5(1) clearly permits a closing (or another law provides an exemption to Chapter 21). Such a vote provides a sure defense against damages under Chapter 21.6(3).
- When voting to close a meeting:
Specify which exemption is being used to close the meeting and have this noted in the minutes. Specify why you believe the exemption to be valid in this case. Make sure that either two-thirds of the total membership of the body (not simply two-thirds of those present) or all of those present vote to close the session and that each person’s vote is recorded in the minutes.
- When in closed session:
Make sure that a tape recording and detailed minutes are kept of the discussion as required by the Act in 21.5(4). Limit the closed session discussion to the reason specified when you moved to close the meeting, and reopen the meeting as soon as you have completed discussing that item.
- Take final action in public.
More Open Meetings Open Records Handbook: