Archer Public Library

During a special meeting Tuesday, May 5, the city of Archer tentatively approved a public records request policy modeled off that of the southeastern Iowa city of Fairfield. The policy is pending review by city attorney Micah Schreurs before being sent to the Iowa League of Cities.

ARCHER—The Archer City Council brushed up on its knowledge of Iowa Code while developing a public records request policy at a special meeting held Tuesday, May 5.

The city’s need to enact a records request policy arose from a complaint Mari Radtke of the Paullina-based O’Brien County Bell-Times-Courier sent to the Iowa Public Information Board in January.

In her complaint, Radtke said the city council violated Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code when it passed a resolution during its Jan. 13 meeting that set minimum fees for city records requests.

Mayor Richard Ludeke said he has been in contact with Mickey Shields, director of membership services for the Iowa League of Cities, about crafting a policy.

Shields told Ludeke the main problems with Archer’s resolution passed on Jan. 13 were that it included a flat fee of $1 per page requested and would require copies of the records to be sent by certified mail at a cost of $6.30 for the requester.

Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code does not require a flat fee for records requests or for such records to be sent by certified mail. If the city chooses certified mail to send records, it cannot charge the requester for that service because that person is not the one who chose the certified delivery option.

Shields recommended Archer base its public records request policy on that of the city of Fairfield, which outlines how such a request would be conducted from start to finish.

For instance, a request could be in the form of a letter, e-mail or fax. The requesters then could fill out a form detailing the information sought, how many copies are wanted and how they want to receive it.

Fairfield’s policy also designates the lawful custodian of the public records as the city clerk and provides the following fee schedule for photocopy, postage and labor charges:

  • Photocopy: 30 cents per single-sided, standard-size printer page; 35 cents for double-sided; additional increments of 5 cents for larger sizes and color printing.
  • Postage: To be charged at actual cost.
  • Labor: The first 15 minutes of clerk’s time will be free of charge. The requester will be charged $5 for each additional 15 minutes of service.

The policy also lists estimated response times for sending the records depending on how many pages are requested.

The council members took turns reading a draft of Archer’s public records request policy that largely mirrored that of Fairfield’s except for minor changes to reflect differences between the two cities.

For example, Archer does not have a city hall building. Therefore, city clerk Sandy Fritz suggested requesters could schedule appointments with her to receive copies of the documents or examine them in person while they remain in Fritz’ possession. The requester then would sign a form saying they were able to see the record they wanted.

Another difference is that the city of Archer does not have an electronic scanner, so it is not able to send copies of requested records electronically; it can only mail hard copies.

The city council also discussed simplifying the estimated response time portion of the policy to better align with the Iowa League of Cities’ recommended 10 days.

Fritz agreed with that timeline, saying the council could increase the response time to 20 days for requests of 500 pages or more of records.

The council tentatively adopted the policy pending review of city attorney Micah Schreurs, who then will send it to the Iowa League of Cities.