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Why public records are so important

Iowa’s public records law is an important part of democracy in our state, although government officials sometimes forget that they are working for the citizens.

The dogged reporting of the Quad City Times in recent days clearly illustrates that fact of life.

The Davenport school board has been considering the sale of the vacant Lincoln School for several years. The board met in closed sessions in recent months to discuss the sale of real estate.

Iowa’s public meetings law allows such discussions to occur behind closed doors to keep details from becoming public before a transaction is completed.

The Quad City Times learned that a sales agreement had been reached and that the contract had been signed. But school officials balked at releasing minutes of those closed meetings and audio records that must be made during such sessions.

The reason: School officials said the transaction documents had not been filed with the Scott County Recorder’s Office yet.

The Times’ education reporter Megan Valley obtained a leaked copy of a memorandum to the new school superintendent that laid out the details of numerous past offers to buy the vacant school.

Valley learned what school officials were trying to keep from the public — that multiple offers for more than $500,000 had been received but never were finalized.

And the offer that was agreed to by the school board was for a mere $30,000 and came from a nonprofit organization associated with the Davenport church where the vice president of the school board is employed.

You can read the Quad City Times’ in-depth account of this important issue here: https://tinyurl.com/yyc6s4g2

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