OVERSIGHT UPDATE: Battle Over Transparency

open records request

The chair of the Senate Oversight Committee is asking for more documents as part of its investigation into the use of confidential settlements.

On Tuesday, Senator Janet Petersen requested, “any and all documents that constitute, reflect, evidence, or relate to the department of management’s approval of the reduction in force and reorganization plans.”

Petersen says the request includes, “emails and private email accounts of department of management staff.”

“We’re still waiting for documents and information. We believe the story is bigger than hush money and we don’t want documents destroyed,” State Sen. Peterson said.

Governor Branstad called the move “partisanship at its worst” during an election year.

After the Senate Oversight Committee demanded Governor Branstad’s emails, faxes, and phone logs, Iowa GOP Chair Danny Carroll responded with an open records request of his own.

Carroll is trying to determine if the hearings could serve another purpose – to boost State Sen. Jack Hatch’s campaign for governor.

Carroll’s suspicions led him to ask for emails to and from senators Janet Peterson, Jack Hatch, and Matt McCoy using an open record requests including the terms “settlements, confidential, hush money, and campaign.”

Senate Secretary Michael Marshall responded Tuesday, writing in part, “your request has been denied. The type of records you have requested have not customarily been deemed public documents by the senate.”

Marshall also noted, “The Iowa General Assembly has the power under the Iowa Constitution to determine its own rules of proceedings.”

That gives lawmakers the power to decide if they want to release their emails.

danny carrollGOP Chair Danny Carroll says they should.

“The point is they could if they wanted to and they could remove any cloud of suspicion that their purposes are political,” Carroll told Channel 13. “I just think this is a special occasion because of the nature of this issue of transparency that this warrants something different.”

The oversight committee looking into the settlements met again today but didn’t get any new answers. That’s because one of the scheduled witnesses and half of the committee members couldn’t attend.

The meeting was quickly adjourned. It’s been rescheduled for Wednesday morning.