The city of Glenwood has violated state law by not publishing minutes from its city council meetings in a timely manner, a manager for the Iowa State Auditor’s Office and a representative of the Iowa Newspaper Association Legal Hot Line have confirmed.
The Iowa Code states, “within 15 days following a regular or special meeting of the council, the (city) clerk shall cause the minutes of the proceedings of the council, including the total expenditures from each city fund, to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the city.” The code also states that failure of the city clerk to meet the publication requirement is a simple misdemeanor.
The city failed to meet the 15-day requirement for the council’s first eight meetings of the 2012 calendar year. Minutes for the Jan. 10, Jan. 24, Feb. 14, Feb. 28, March 13, March 27, April 10 and April 24 meetings weren’t approved by the city council until its regular meeting last Tuesday, May 8. In today’s edition of The Opinion-Tribune, the city is publishing minutes from those eight meetings in addition to the May 8 meeting. The abstract of claims for the May 8 meeting are not being published today.
Joe Quinn, an attorney for the INA Legal Hot Line, said the state code offers no specific time frame for minutes being approved by the council, only the 15-day publication requirement.
City clerk Judith Groves is responsible for recording and submitting Glenwood City Council meeting minutes for publication. She offered no reason for failing to comply with the 15-day requirement.
“I don’t know,” Groves said Monday when asked for an explanation.
Groves reports to Mayor Kim Clark and the city council. The mayor declined to discuss the delinquent minutes with The Opinion-Tribune, referring inquiries to city attorney Matt Woods.
Woods and city council member Kay LeFever did agree to discuss the matter and both said the city takes the issue seriously. They promised the 15-day requirement would be followed in the future. Woods said he’s made Glenwood’s elected officials and City Hall staff aware of the seriousness of the violation.
“It’s a governmental entity. People are entitled to know what’s taking place,” Woods said. “I’m not sure if any disciplinary action has been taken, but the situation has been remedied and will not happen again.”
LeFever said council members haven’t been told why Groves wasn’t publishing the minutes.
“We weren’t given an explanation, LeFever said, “but from what I know, she had so much stuff - she was just bogged down. She was overwhelmed.”
LeFever said because of the situation, she expects the mayor and city council to closely examine and evaluate the city clerk’s responsibilities and workload.
“We need to look at what duties she is doing,” LeFever said.
Groves was paid a salary of $33,489.60 in 2011.
Marlys Gaston, a manager for the Iowa State Auditor’s Office, said occasionally a situation arises that results in minutes from a governmental meeting being submitted past the 15-day deadline for publication, but it’s unusual to have a clerk not submit minutes for eight consecutive meetings.
“Typically, you wouldn’t want minutes from that many meetings not get published,” Gaston said. “You want to keep the public apprised of what’s going on.”
Gaston said city council members should expect the delinquent meeting minutes to be addressed when the city’s annual audit is conducted later this year. Other than being written up in the audit report, Gaston said the city isn’t likely to face additional consequences, legal or financial, as long as the state code is followed in the future.