FOI Council enters dispute over legal fees

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council this week joined the Storm Lake Times’ continuing effort to persuade county officials in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties to release documents pertaining to the counties’ legal fees in defending the lawsuit brought by the Des Moines Water Works.

Randy Evans, the FOI Council’s executive director, said in a letter this week to officials in the three counties: “The ‘sunshine laws’ never contemplated keeping from the public the amounts paid by government for outside counsel or the financial arrangements for paying those lawyers.

“The three counties have failed to cite any legal basis for this secrecy. That’s why the Iowa Freedom of Information Council is disappointed with the secrecy your counties have placed around documents related to the legal expenses incurred so far in the Water Works lawsuit.”

Evans’ letter continued, “This secrecy deprives the taxpayers of your counties — the people ultimately obligated to pay the expense of the counties’ legal defense — of information they need to effectively evaluate this important issue. Such public accountability is precisely what the Legislature had in mind when it wrote the open records law. Indeed, accountability for the expenditure of government funds is a hallmark of the Iowa Open Records Act.”

A copy of the entire letter can be found here. DMWW.Litigation.2016