from the Iowa District Court for Chickasaw County, David P.
plaintiff appeals the trial court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of the defendant.
H. Skilton of Cronin, Skilton & Skilton, P.L.L.C.,
Charles City, for appellant.
Jennifer L. Schwickerath of Elwood, O'Donohoe, Braun
& White, L.L.P., New Hampton, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.
Hackman appeals the district court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of New Hampton Municipal Light Plant (the
Plant) authorizing the Plant to collect various fees to
fulfill an open records request. Hackman argues he was
charged for the Plant's attorney fees, which are not
authorized by statute. We affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
requested records from the Plant on November 21, 2012.
Hackman's request included the following: "copies of
all e-mails to and from the City Clerk to any New Hampton
Municipal Light Plant Board Member or New Hampton Municipal
Light Plant employee from May 16, 2012, to present"; the
audio and agenda for multiple meetings; copies of insurance
policies; and "all file indexes or dictations made from
July 2012 to present."
December 17, 2012, counsel for the Plant sent a partial
response to Hackman's request, and the full response was
fulfilled on December 26, 2012. The Plant sent an invoice for
$828.30 in expenses related to Hackman's
request. The bill included 21.75 hours of fees at $35 per
hour for the following services: reviewing emails; redacting
emails; copying records; corresponding with opposing counsel
regarding the records request; and compiling records. The
bill also included $75.80 for copies.
on the Plant's written policy, the rate to fulfill open
records request was "[c]opies at $.20 per copy . . .
research-first 15 minutes at no charge, then $35 per hour
5, 2013, Hackman filed a petition for declaratory judgment,
arguing the fees charged in response to the open records
request were attorney fees, which were not authorized by
statute. Because Hackman originally filed the petition under
an unrelated wrongful-termination action, the trial court
allowed Hackman to amend the petition, creating a new,
separate action. The Plant presented counterclaims against
Hackman for the balance of the outstanding bill from
August 26, 2016, the Plant filed a motion for summary
judgment, arguing there is no genuine issue of material fact
and the Plant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law
because Iowa Code section 22.3 (2013) and the Plant's
written fee policy authorized the fees. The motion included
an affidavit from Suellen Kolbet, city clerk of New Hampton,
Iowa. The affidavit verified the Plant's fee schedule for
records requests and defined the term "research" as
a "general term we use to mean the time it takes to
comply with the request." The affidavit stated the
request contained "a large amount of emails, some of
which contained statutorily protected confidential
information." The affidavit also outlined the process in
which Kolbet would forward emails subject to the record
request to New Hampton's attorney, Jennifer L.
Schwickerat, in order to "interpret the appropriate
statutes and redact the statutorily protected information
from the emails."
resisted, arguing the fees were actually attorney fees that
are not authorized by statute. On November 16, 2016, the
trial court issued an order for judgment against Hackman for