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Krapf v. Rastetter

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

GERHILD KRAPF, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BRUCE RASTETTER, KATIE MULHOLLAND, MILT DAKOVICH, LARRY MCKIBBEN, MARY ANDRINGA, and BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE STATE OF IOWA, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William P. Kelly, Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in an action brought pursuant to the Iowa Open Meetings Act. AFFIRMED.

          Gary Dickey of Dickey & Campbell Law Firm, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Richard J. Sapp and Leslie C. Behaunek of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees Bruce Rastetter, Katie Mulholland, and Mary Andringa.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and George A. Carroll, Assistant Attorney General, for appellees Milt Dakovich, Larry McKibben, and Board of Regents of the State of Iowa.

          Ivan T. Webber and Maria E. Brownell of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Des Moines, for amici curiae Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Iowa League of Cities, Iowa State Association of Counties, and Iowa Association of School Boards.

          Alan R. Ostergren of Iowa County Attorneys Association, Muscatine, for amicus curiae Iowa County Attorneys Association.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          McDONALD, JUDGE.

         This is an appeal in an action initiated pursuant to the Iowa Open Meetings Act ("IOMA"), Iowa Code Chapter 21 (2015). The plaintiff, Gerhild Krapf, alleged the Iowa Board of Regents and five of its members violated IOMA on July 30, 2015, when five of the regents had separate but serial contact with Bruce Harreld regarding the vacancy for the position of President of the University of Iowa. Krapf alleged these separate but serial meetings constituted a single "meeting" within the meaning of IOMA. See Iowa Code § 21.2(2) (defining meeting). She alleged the "meeting" violated IOMA because it was held without notice, was not conducted in open session, and was held without minutes being taken. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and Krapf timely filed this appeal.

         The summary judgment record reflects the following. At the time of the alleged meeting, Harreld was not a candidate for the position of university president, but he was interested in meeting with some of the regents to obtain more information regarding the position to determine whether he would be a good fit for the position. Board president Bruce Rastetter arranged for Harreld to meet with some of the regents. On July 30, Rastetter picked up Harreld from the airport and drove him to Rastetter's place of business in Ames. Rastetter left, and Harreld met with regents Mary Andringa and Larry McKibben. Immediately after the meeting with Andringa and McKibben, Harreld met with regents Katie Mulholland and Milt Dakovich. In the meetings, the regents provided Harreld with information regarding the position and the university, and Harreld provided information regarding himself. Eventually, Harreld submitted an application for the position. A twenty-one person search committee selected four finalists to present to the board. Harreld was one of the finalists. The board held open interview sessions with each of the finalists and ultimately selected Harreld to serve as President of the University of Iowa.

         Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and "the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.981(3). Accordingly, appellate review is "limited to whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the district court correctly applied the law." Linn v. Montgomery, 903 N.W.2d 337, 342 (Iowa 2017) (quoting Pillsbury Co. v. Wells Dairy, Inc., 752 N.W.2d 430, 434 (Iowa 2008)). Additionally, "[a]ctions to enforce [IOMA] are ordinary actions at law. Our review of such actions is for correction of errors at law." Dooley v. Johnson Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 08-0195, 2008 WL 5234382, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 17, 2008) (citations omitted). As the party seeking to enforce IOMA, Krapf bears the burden of proving IOMA applies to the identified group of individuals and gathering. See Iowa Code § 21.6(2).

         IOMA defines "meeting" as follows:

"Meeting" means a gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body's policy-making duties. Meetings shall not include a gathering of members of a governmental body for purely ministerial or social purposes when ...

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