Request for refund voted down


The West Liberty City Council declined a request for a refund after a resident requested document from city hall.

Earlier this year, city council passed a resolution that charges $20 per hour for records retrieval for any public records requests that comes to city hall. The charges start if the records retrieval takes over 20 minutes.

Mayor Katie McCullough said Paul Reed disputed services rendered and services that were paid for. Reed filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board about the city’s policy. The IPIB came back that the city had done everything they needed to do, and the complaint was dismissed.

“But Mr. Reed is seeking a refund regardless, saying that he did not get the records he asked for,” McCullough said. “That they were repeats of the ones he already submitted the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for.”

Councilmember Cara McFerren said Reed was given many opportunities in the past to review the records he requested without being charged. She said it was fair he was being charged to further review the records he requested from city hall.

“As far as I see it, we should let it stand as is,” McFerren added.

City councilmember Ashley Smith asked if it was typical for people to charged for the requested records without reviewing the information first because that’s what Reed’s biggest complaint seemed to be.

City clerk Lee Geertz said people must pay for the work that is completed and there were items delivered electronically to Reed. The only other items requested that the city had were printed and placed in a folder for Reed to pick up.

“And any of the other items requested, we simply did not have a record of that,” Geertz added.

City council can review the charge and refund it, Geertz said. In this case, she said city staff put in many hours of correspondence with Reed, investigation, production and discussion with legal counsel of some of the records requested is where IPIB said what Reed was charged was fair.

McFerren said if you’re getting information from city hall, it still takes staff time to gather it.

Smith asked Geertz if the information would typically be gathered during regular business hours. Geertz said this is usually the case but the city is short staffed and there was legal discussion about the request.

Smith asked Geertz what fund the $72.10 would go into the city collected from Reed for the records. Geertz said the money is a fee so it goes in the city services fund under the general fund.

McCullough asked city councilmember Omar Martinez, who was attending the meeting virtually, if he had anything to add, he said no.

Geertz ended the discussion by recommending the council not approve Reed’s request for a refund because then what would be the reason for having a policy charging for time for gathering records. Geertz also said Reed received the copies both electronically and then on paper and he refused to sing for the copies.

Smith asked Geertz when he submitted his first request. Geertz said it was June 9.

After his second request, Geertz said she communicated to Reed he had been asking for duplicated documents.

McCullough thanked Geertz for answering the council’s questions and asked for a vote. No one voted in favor of issuing a refund to Reed. City councilmember Dana Dominguez abstained from the discussion and the vote.

Other items covered at the city council meeting included:

•Approving ordinance 20-2022816 the amendment of the stormwater utility ordinance – third reading;

•Amending the golf/ATV/UTV ordinance 2021 and waiving the third reading;

•Approving the request for the “Comet Classic” Marching Band Competition Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Elm Street closure request;

•Approving an Economic Development Grant Application for matching funds of $25,000 for Brooke Ventures LLC Spencer Building project;

•Approving the resolution for a development agreement between the city and Brooke Ventures LLC for 317 North Spencer Street;

•Approving a resolution to extend the 28E agreement between the city and the West Liberty Rural Ambulance from July 1 until Dec. 31;

•Approving lead paramedic job description;

•And approved city ambulance department salary and job titles for fiscal year 2022-23.

City council will have a work session at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20, which will be a presentation from the special committee fire/EMS taskforce at the community center. The regular meeting will begin at 7:30 pm.