O’Brien County picks official newspapers

O’Brien County auditor Barb Rohwer talks to newly appointed board chair John Steensma and supervisor Dan Friedrichsen on Thursday, Jan. 2, about the board approving official newspapers for the county in 2020. The supervisors appointed The N’West Iowa REVIEW and The Sheldon Mail-Sun as its legal publications for this year.

PRIMGHAR—O’Brien County encountered no controversy when it chose its official newspapers for 2020.

On Thursday, Jan. 2, in Primghar, the board of supervisors unanimously approved The N’West Iowa REVIEW and The Sheldon Mail-Sun as the county’s legal publications for this year.

They were the only ones to submit requests to be the county’s official newspapers for 2020. That means there will be no newspaper contest hearing during the supervisors’ next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

According to Iowa Code Section 349.3: “The number of such newspapers to be selected shall be as follows: In counties having a population of less than 15,000, two such newspapers, or one, if there be but one published therein.”

The county had a population of less than 15,000 as of the 2010 Census, meaning the supervisors have to designate two newspapers published in the county as official publications for the year.

The Iowa Newspaper Association notes such a designation is important because “it’s good public policy to require local government officials to disclose to taxpayers in writing the actions they’ve taken and how they’ve spent public tax dollars.”

The REVIEW and The Mail-Sun, which are owned by Iowa Information Publishers and Printers of Sheldon, have been designated as the county’s official newspapers since 2005.

Marcus News Inc., which owns the Paullina-based O’Brien County’s Bell-Times-Courier and The Sanborn Pioneer, did not submit any requests this year for its newspapers to be named the county’s legal publications.

After its publications were not chosen the previous two years, the newspaper company appealed the supervisors’ decisions in 2018 and 2019 to select The REVIEW and The Mail-Sun as its official newspapers to O’Brien County District Court.

The 2018 case eventually ended up in front of the Iowa Supreme Court, which on Nov. 15 reaffirmed a Jan. 9, 2018, decision by the supervisors to name The REVIEW and The Mail-Sun as the county’s two official newspapers for that year.

Marcus News had 14 days to appeal the state Supreme Court’s decision, but the newspaper company did not do so.

According to court records, Marcus News attorney Ray Edgington of Sioux City on Monday, Dec. 30, filed a notice to have the newspaper company’s appeal of the supervisors’ Jan. 8, 2019, decision dismissed without prejudice.

A case dismissed without prejudice means a plaintiff is at liberty to file another lawsuit based on the same grounds.

In related news, the supervisors on Dec. 17 approved a payment to Iowa Information in the amount of $11,429.33 for the publishing of board proceedings and official notices for the 2018 calendar year.

However, that approval did not include a claim to Iowa Information for 2018 secondary road official notices in the amount of $252.15. The supervisors voted in favor of paying that total on Thursday, Jan. 2.