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Why file open-meeting lawsuit?

J. Robert Hopson

Des Moines Register

January 2, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

Based on the opinion of the Iowa Board of Regents' lawyers versus the Iowa City Press-Citizen's lawyers, the legality of the regents' meetings may be questionable, but not a "for sure" violation of the open meetings law ("Newspaper Sues Regents Over Meetings," Dec. 22).

If the meetings were a definite violation, why sue for copies of the regents' tapes and minutes? The meetings were in violation regardless of what the tapes or minutes contain. But more importantly, is the Press-Citizen more interested in hiring a new University of Iowa president or getting even? The timing of the lawsuit prior to any hiring would indicate that getting even is the primary motive.

Certainly a lawsuit could wait until after a new president is in place.

Add to this the required replacing of three of the regents because of expiring terms and the additional burden placed on the selection process, this Press-Citizen action should make no common sense to Iowa taxpayers, the ones that will be charged with the expenses of delaying positive action.

It would also seem timely for the Legislature to revisit the open meetings law. Today's technology would be reason enough to take another look. I think we all agree that members of the public have a right to know how their elected and appointed public leaders conduct their business, but we don't need word for word.

To have any chance of success, leaders need to be able to have frank discussions without the "political correctness" that pollutes so many public meetings and stagnates the process.

J. Robert Hopson