The Maquoketa Sentinel-Press filed a complaint Friday with the Iowa Public Information Board against the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office for declining to release requested public documents.
On April 22, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf officially denied portions of an open records request from the Sentinel-Press that sought information about a police call involving Amanda Lassance, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor.
On Monday, Wolf and Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln called the Sentinel-Press and said they were reconsidering the denial.
“I wanted to let you know it is actively being worked on,” Wolf said.
Wolf and Lincoln, in their April 22 response, provided some of the requested documents but denied a deputy’s report, witness statements and video from the scene.
Deputies from Clinton and Jackson counties responded to the complaint that started when Nick Shannon, who identified himself as Lassance’s boyfriend, called to report that Lassance had repeatedly hit him in the face and threw a cooler at him at 12:56 a.m. April 6 along U.S. Highway 61 in northern Clinton County, dispatch logs show.
According to the logs, Shannon told the dispatcher that he and Lassance had been drinking. According to Lincoln and police records deputies did not conduct sobriety tests. The two were cited for open container violations and pleaded guilty April 15.
The Sentinel-Press requested all documents and video from that incident under Iowa’s public records law. Wolf provided some documents but said he would not release dashboard video from the incident or other reports generated by the deputies who handled the call.
Sentinel-Press Publisher Trevis Mayfield said he believes the public has a legal and ethical right to all the related public records.
“It’s hard for the public to judge how justice is functioning if the government functions in secret,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield said it does not appear that the investigation is ongoing and that he believes the records should be released once they are no longer part of an active investigation.
The IPIB is an independent agency governed by a nine-member board appointed by the governor.
The board answers questions and concerns about Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws. People can file complaints with the IPIB if they believe the law is not being followed.
The IPIB will ask Wolf and Lincoln to respond to the complaint, according to IPIB Administrator Brett Toresdahl.
“This information gathering process will assist in determining if the complaint has jurisdiction, has merit, and appears legally sufficient,” Toresdahl explained. “This information will be presented to the IPIB Board to review and determine if the complaint is to be accepted or dismissed.”
The IPIB Board meets on the third Thursday of most months at the IPIB office in Des Moines. The next scheduled board meeting is June 20.
“If the complaint is accepted by the board, then there is a statutory requirement that staff attempts to reach an informal resolution with the parties involved with the complaint,” Toresdahl explained.”
Maquoketa Sentinel-Press staffers Kelly Gerlach, Nick Joos, Nancy Mayfield and Trevis Mayfield contributed to this report.