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21.6 Enforcement.

1. The remedies provided by this section against state governmental bodies shall be in addition to those provided by section 17A.19. Any aggrieved person, taxpayer to, or citizen of, the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or county attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of this chapter. Suits to enforce this chapter shall be brought in the district court for the county in which the governmental body has its principal place of business.

2. Once a party seeking judicial enforcement of this chapter demonstrates to the court that the body in question is subject to the requirements of this chapter and has held a closed session, the burden of going forward shall be on the body and its members to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

3. Upon a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that a governmental body has violated any provision of this chapter, a court:

a. Shall assess each member of the governmental body who participated in its violation damages in the amount of not more than five hundred dollars nor less than one hundred dollars. These damages shall be paid by the court imposing it to the state of Iowa, if the body in question is a state governmental body, or to the local government involved if the body in question is a local governmental body. A member of a governmental body found to have violated this chapter shall not be assessed such damages if that member proves that the member did any of the following:

(1) Voted against the closed session.

(2) Had good reason to believe and in good faith believed facts which, if true, would have indicated compliance with all the requirements of this chapter.

(3) Reasonably relied upon a decision of a court or a formal opinion of the attorney general or the attorney for the governmental body.

b. Shall order the payment of all costs and reasonable attorneys fees to any party successfully establishing a violation of this chapter. The costs and fees shall be paid by those members of the governmental body who are assessed damages under paragraph "a" of this subsection. If no such members exist because they have a lawful defense under that paragraph to the imposition of such damages, the costs and fees shall be paid to the successful party from the budget of the offending governmental body or its parent.

c. Shall void any action taken in violation of this chapter, if the suit for enforcement of this chapter is brought within six months of the violation and the court finds under the facts of the particular case that the public interest in the enforcement of the policy of this chapter outweighs the public interest in sustaining the validity of the action taken in the closed session. This paragraph shall not apply to an action taken regarding the issuance of bonds or other evidence of indebtedness of a governmental body if a public hearing, election or public sale has been held regarding the bonds or evidence of indebtedness.

d. Shall issue an order removing a member of a governmental body from office if that member has engaged in two prior violations of this chapter for which damages were assessed against the member during the member's term.

e. May issue a mandatory injunction punishable by civil contempt ordering the members of the offending governmental body to refrain for one year from any future violations of this chapter.

4. Ignorance of the legal requirements of this chapter shall be no defense to an enforcement proceeding brought under this section. A governmental body which is in doubt about the legality of closing a particular meeting is authorized to bring suit at the expense of that governmental body in the district court of the county of the governmental body's principal place of business to ascertain the propriety of any such action, or seek a formal opinion of the attorney general or an attorney for the governmental body.

Section History: Early form

[C71, 73, 75, 77, § 28A.7, 28A.8; C79, 81, § 28A.6]

Section History: Recent form

C85, § 21.6

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