Branstad unveils state transparency website

2011-10-10T17:10:00Z 2011-10-10T17:20:36Z Branstad unveils state transparency websiteBy MIKE WISER Journal Des Moines bureau Sioux City Journal
October 10, 2011 5:10 pm  • 

DES MOINES - Gov. Terry Branstad unveiled a new website Monday that tracks all the Freedom of Information Act requests that come to his office and what happens to them once they get there.

"We will continue to work for greater transparency," Branstad said in announcing the website at a Statehouse news conference. He stood alongside Bill Monroe, who serves as Branstad's special adviser on government transparency.

Typical of an entry on the site is this one from March:

"On March 11, 2011, Zach Edwards, AFL-CIO, requested all documents regarding AFSCME, project labor agreements, nursing homes, collective bargaining, Mayor Corbett, EO #69, chef, housekeeper and Wisconsin. On April 29, 2011, 617 emails with attachments and 214 pages of documents were provided at a charge of $539.50."

The website covers only requests made to the governor's office. While Branstad said he "encourages" the leaders of state agencies to follow suit with their own websites, he is not making it a requirement.

Sue Dvorsky, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, took credit for forcing the administration to put up a website with the information.

"Given the Branstad administration's mishandling of open records requests, this site is an important step towards transparency and accountability," Dvorsky said in a statement released after the governor's announcement. "We're pleased that Governor Branstad and his staff were able to take the initial work of the Iowa Democratic Party's investigation and provide it as a free resource to all Iowans."

Last month, Dvorsky criticized the governor for dragging his feet on open records requests, particularly those filed by Democrats.

Branstad said some requests take more time to fill than others.

"I think it's very interesting that you have some people that make requests that are very extensive because they want to use that as a source of discovery to sue you," Branstad said, referring to the lawsuits that have been filed against him, such as one filed in August over Branstad's use of his veto to close Iowa Workforce Development Offices.

Monroe then clarified that every request is treated the same once it arrives at the office.

"It doesn't make any difference why a request is made, to this office a request is a request," said Monroe, who is not paid for his adviser role. He said people can ascribe their own motives to why someone asked for particular documents, but the important part is people can see who is asking for what and, if they got it, how long it took and what they paid for it.

"That's something, I think, should have probably been available forever," Monroe said, "but especially now as we're getting more and more into the email age and technology. It's even more important."

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