Iowa’s Washington County Attorney Charged for Violating Public Records Law
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Summary: Iowa's Washington County attorney, first public official charged by the Iowa Public Information Board. Says he was too busy to follow the law.
Larry Brock of Washington County, Iowa is the first official charged by the Iowa Public Information Board for willfully violating provisions of Iowa's public records law. Brock put up a curious defense on Thursday and submitted that he was too busy with high priority duties to keep up with and follow the Public Records law.
State officials said a too busy schedule was no excuse to not follow the law.
USA Today reported Brock informed Administrative Law Judge Margaret LaMarche of a number of court and county duties he was required to complete first - at the time when the alleged violations occurred. He said, "We are extremely busy and we have little down time to address matters other than those specified above…"
In the instant matter, Robert Bellmer made a public records request on March 3. Bellmer is a former park ranger in the county who was asked to resign by county officials in January this year. Bellmer requested for four months of email between Brock and the conservation board.
Brock took until June to fulfill the request. He later testified that it took him three to four days to gather and review the information that amounted to more than 300 pages.
However, according to state law, Iowa agencies must provide access to requested public records within 10 business days of the request, and prima facie, Brock broke that law.
Brock told the court that Bellmer's request was overly broad, but acknowledged that he had made no attempt to ask Bellmer to narrow the scope of his request. State officials showed evidence that Brock ignored multiple requests made by Bellmer to follow up on his initial request for records.
According to law, the county attorney may face a fine of up to $2,500, if convicted.
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