Former Board of Regents president sues Iowa Public Radio

Suit charges violation of Iowa code by holding an unlawful closed meeting

Diane Heldt
Published: May 28 2013 | 3:36 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 3:53 pm in

A former president of the state Board of Regents is suing Iowa Public Radio and several members of the IPR board of directors, charging they violated Iowa code by holding an unlawful closed meeting in December.

Michael Gartner, of Des Moines, filed the suit Tuesday in Iowa District Court for Polk County. The lawsuit names Iowa Public Radio and five members of the board of directors who participated in a closed meeting on Dec. 13, 2012.

Gartner says that closed session violated Chapter 21 -- the Open Meetings Act -- of the Iowa Code.

His suit seeks judicial enforcement "to protect the rights of the public and the press to attend meetings of governmental bodies and to guarantee the openness necessary so that Iowans can understand the process and rationale for governmental decisions."

The conduct of Iowa Public Radio and its board of directors relates directly to the expenditure of public monies and the provision of public services through Iowa Public Radio's operation of the non-commercial radio stations licensed to and owned by Iowa's Regent universities, Gartner argues in the suit. Yet statements made in the press by Iowa Public Radio's attorney, Wayne Reames, take the position that the IPR board is not a governmental body, and therefore does not have to adhere to Chapter 21 of the Iowa Code, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Iowa Public Radio was on Dec. 13 and remains today a governmental body subject to provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 21, and a court order requiring that Iowa Public Radio and its board comply with open meetings laws under penalty of contempt.

"This lawsuit seeks to restore the 'public' into 'Iowa Public Radio,'" the document states.

The suit also asks that all actions taken during or as a result of the unlawful closed meeting on Dec. 13 be voided, including the voiding of a consulting agreement or contract with the meyvn group for an employee culture survey, and that damages be assessed as required by Iowa Code in amounts as required for the willful violations by the board members who participated in the Dec. 13 closed meeting.

Questions regarding Iowa Public Radio's status arose after the organization's board of directors on Feb. 26 voted after a closed session to fire chief executive officer Mary Grace Herrington.

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