IFOIC supports traffic cam ruling

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council has filed a brief with the Iowa Supreme Court in support of an Iowa man’s contention that tickets issued by an Ottumwa police traffic enforcement camera are public records and must be released upon request.

In November 2017, a Wapello County District Court judge ruled in favor of Mark Leonard, who sought records of all speed limit violations recorded by the camera, even if the Ottumwa Police Department later decided not to issue civil infraction citations to some vehicle owners.

The judge directed the City of Ottumwa to make available the requested records.

The city appealed the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.

In his ruling, District Judge Randy DeGeest concluded that the tickets issued as a result of the traffic enforcement camera are not confidential under the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act, nor under Iowa’s public records law.

DeGeest said neither the federal law nor its Iowa companion law makes information about “vehicular accidents, driving violations, and driver’s status” confidential.

The judge had an eloquent summation in his ruling of the importance of the Iowa public records law, and DeGeest’s language should be remembered, and quoted, by advocates for improved government transparency:

“Iowa Code Chapter 22 establishes the public’s right to examine governmental records as a policy of the State of Iowa. This Court’s decision supports and honors that policy allowing the citizens to have knowledge of the actions of their government. Governmental entities are in place to serve the public, and the public has the right to see and inspect documents to ensure the public is being served in an appropriate and legal manner,” the judge said.

To read Judge DeGeest’s decision, click here: Milligan.JudgmentRuling

To read the Iowa FOI Council’s amicus curiae brief, click here: 08192018 IA FOI Amicus Brief Final

The FOI Council’s brief was authored by George Davison, a Des Moines attorney and former radio news reporter.

The Iowa League of Cities has filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the City of Ottumwa’s position. You can read that brief here: Iowa League of Cities Amicus Curiae Final