Public Notice Q&A 2013 Search online at: http://www.inanews.com/members/login.php?page=pubhandbook Importance Public Notice Importance What can I do to help demonstrate the importance of public notice advertising? Here are a few “do’s and don’ts” to help publishers tap the power they have to influence the outcome of this continuing debate. Do tell your readers - regularly - about the importance of public notice and your role in publishing notices. Run “house ads” and other material detailing how the information found in public notices can impact your community, your neighborhood and more. Constantly remind readers how important notices are to their rights as citizens and property owners. Do make public notices easier to read and easier to understand. Poorly written public notice statutes often result in notices nearly unintelligible to readers. Those statues frequently require small typefaces, tight leading and worse. Having authored the statues that make them nearly impossible to comprehend, legislators then like to argue, “Since nobody’s reading public notices, let’s get rid of them.” Respond by running summaries and explanations of the notices - “what is a summons notice and why it is important?” - and, whenever possible, offering visual cues, graphics and the like. Do give public notices a prominent - and permanent - position in your newspaper. By creating a regular, easy-to-find position for notices in your newspaper, you’ll increase reader awareness of public notices and build understanding of the significance of public notice. Do use public notice as a source of news stories. An otherwise innocent-looking notice about a rezoning proposal may provide a window to an important story about a changing neighborhood. A “typical” notice about a foreclosure or other credit-related action could be the beginning of a critical story you should report about a local business or individual. Do train your staff on the importance of public notice. Make sure they know how much public notice matters to the community - and to the future of your business. It’s not about the revenue; it’s about the job you do for your community. Do let your customers know you’re the public notice “expert.” Legal requirements attached to publishing notices - from publication schedules to affidavit procedures - can be nettlesome and confusing. Master them. And let your customers - from the local city clerk to the attorney placing a probate notice - know they can be assured you’ll take care of the details and get the job done right, every time. Do work with your newspaper association to monitor public notice legislation. Changes in public notice laws usually move quietly through state legislatures. Do what you can to help your state newspaper association stay on top of the issue. Keep in touch with your local elected representatives and make sure they’re on your side when it comes to the future of public notice. Don’t treat public notice as just another classified advertising category. Placing notices deep in the classified ad section or, even worse, haphazardly in the newspaper tells your readers that you don’t think public notice is particularly important. Your readers likely include local officials and state legislators, and they will act accordingly. Don’t assume your readers know you’re the source for local public notices. If you don’t tell them, they probably won’t think your role as publisher of notices is significant. Don’t put your least-qualified and least-experienced staff member in charge of public notice. Dealing with affidavits, clippings, glue sticks and peculiar scheduling and billing patterns can be messy business, a job no one in your office wants. Respond by recognizing how important the job is to the newspaper and assign the job to the most-qualified and most-experienced staff member. Don’t think that this is only about revenue for your newspaper. While revenues generated by public notices, in total, can be significant, that’s not what’s most important in this debate. This is about providing vital information to your community and the role your newspaper plays in that process. Don’t let “the revenue issue” keep you from communicating this principle to your local officials and legislators. Public Notice Rates Public Notice Rates How do I compute the charges for public notice? While there is no short answer to this question, computing for public notice advertisements has been made much easier as a result of public notice reforms passed by the Iowa Legislature and championed by the INA. Here are the basic steps to follow when charging notices. The current rate is 46.2 cents for one insertion and 31.3 cents for each subsequent insertion for each line of eight-point type two inches in length, or the equivalent. Pages 33 and 34 of the INA Publishers' Handbook list the various rates. Since many papers don’t use eight point type on two inch (12 pica) lines, most of the rates on these charts refer to the “equivalent rates.” To determine the cost of a notice in your paper... 1. First determine the size of the type used. For the purposes of an example, let’s say you use seven point type. Look at the section of the chart on page 33, “Iowa Legal Rates” under the heading “7 POINT TYPE” it looks like this: 7-POINT TYPE 10 picas 11 picas 12 picas 13 picas 14 picas 15 picas 16 picas 18 picas Ordinance price .330 .363 Full price .440 .484 .396 .429 .462 .495 .528 .594 .528 .572 .616 .660 .704 .792 2. Determine the price of the notice. Unless otherwise noted in the Code, all notices are at the full legal rate for the first insertion. The column on the left of the chart lists the two types of prices for notices. They are: Ordinance price (for city and county ordinances) Full price (for any publication where the code does not specifically require a discounted or premium rate) 3. Determine your price per pica. Let’s take the example of a set of city council minutes set in seven point type. After finding the requirement for publishing this notice (Section 372.13 of the Iowa code, page 52A in the “Public Notice Laws-Cities” chapter of this handbook) we see that the Code does not mention any discount on the rate for publishing council minutes. Therefore, we assume the minutes will be published at the full price rate. Note the first column of numbers on the chart under “7 POINT TYPE’ heading. This column lists the rates for notices set in 10 pica column widths. By placing a zero (0) just to the right of the decimal point in each of these three numbers, you will have the rate per pica. In this case, the rate for a notice set at full price in seven point type on a 10 pica line is .440. Therefore, the price per pica is one-tenth of this amount or .0440 per pica. 4. Determine the width of the notice in picas. 5. Determine the rate per line of the notice by multiplying the price per pica by the width of the notice in picas. 6. Count the number of lines in the notice. Multiply this number by the rate per line and you will have computed the price of the notice. This method will work for notices of any width, regardless of whether they are made up of straight matter, tabular matter or both. It applies only to those notices which you typeset. If you are computing the rate for a notice which is running a second or third time, the procedure to follow is identical with one exception. Instead of using the chart on page 33, use the chart on page 34, “Iowa Legal Rates for 2nd and 3rd Insertions.” Public Notice Rates Computing the price of photographed notices. The INA's legal counsel has advised that newspapers may charge their earned space rate or what they would have charged had they typeset the notice...whichever is less. Here's an example. Let's say your city clerk sends you a proposed budget prepared on a form, which, when reduced to six-point type, is three SAU columns (38.5 picas) wide. Had you typeset the notice, the price (computed from the chart on page 33 of the INA Publishers' Handbook by multiplying the price per pica of six point type [0.0514] times 38.5 picas) would have been $1.98 per line. To compute the cost of this notice, count the lines in the notice and mulitply that number by $1.98. If there were 36 lines, for example, the cost would be $71.28 (36 lines x $1.98 per line). That would be the MAXIMUM you could charge for publishing the notice. If you found that charging your space rate would result in a charge of less than $71.28 for this example, then you could simply charge your space rate rather than following the steps outlined above. Just remember that under no circumstances are you allowed by law to charge more for a photographed notice than you would have charged had you set the type itself. The type-size chart on page 36A can help you determine the point size used in a camera-ready notice. A paper in our county ran the delinquent tax notices for less than $4 per description this year. Has the rate for this notice changed? No. The rate of $4 per description remains the same. However, as is the case with all public notice rates, this is the maximum a newspaper may charge. Papers may charge less if they wish to do so. What is the Iowa law regarding publication of city and county ordinances? Cities and counties have two options when publishing ordinances. They may publish the ordinances in full. Such publications are to billed at 75 percent of the legal rate. Or, they may choose to publish a summary of the ordinance. Publication of summarized ordinances is billed at the full legal rate and... “...a summary shall mean a narrative description of the terms and conditions of an ordinance setting forth the main points of the ordinance in a manner calculated to inform the public in a clear and understandable manner the meaning of the ordinance and which shall provide the public with sufficient notice to conform to the desired conduct required by the notice. “The description shall include the title of the ordinance, an accurate and intelligible abstract or synopsis of the essential elements of the ordinance, a statement that the description is a summary, the location and the normal business hours of the office where the ordinance may be inspected, when the ordinance becomes effective, and the full text of any provisions imposing fines, penalties, forfeitures, fees, or taxes. “Legal descriptions of property set forth in ordinances shall be described in full, provided that maps or charts may be substituted for legal descriptions when they contain sufficient detail to clearly define the area with which the ordinance is concerned. The narrative description shall be written in a clear and coherent manner and shall, to the extent possible, avoid the use of technical or legal terms not generally familiar to the public. When necessary to use technical or legal terms not generally familiar to the public, the narrative description shall include definitions of those terms.” What constitutes a “claim” for public notice purposes? When cities, schools or counties are required to publish a list of claims, each claim must contain three elements: -- The name of the person or company receiving the money; -- The amount of money received by the claimant and -- The purpose or reason the claimant is being paid. Public NoticeRates Iowa Legal Rates 10 Picas 11 Picas 12 Picas 13 Picas 14 Picas 15 Picas 16 Picas 18 Picas 0.540 0.719 0.578 0.771 0.617 0.822 0.694 0.925 0.462 0.616 0.495 0.660 0.528 0.704 0.594 0.792 0.461 0.615 0.492 0.656 0.554 0.738 0.433 0.578 0.462 0.616 0.520 0.693 0.410 0.546 0.437 0.583 0.492 0.656 0.385 0.513 0.410 0.547 0.462 0.616 0.347 0.462 0.370 0.493 0.416 0.554 6-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.385 0.514 0.424 0.565 0.462 0.617 0.501 0.668 7-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.330 0.440 0.363 0.484 0.396 0.528 0.429 0.572 7 1/2-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.308 0.410 0.338 0.451 0.369 0.492 0.400 0.533 0.431 0.574 8-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.289 0.385 0.318 0.424 0.347 0.462 0.375 0.501 0.404 0.539 8 1/2-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.273 0.364 0.301 0.401 0.328 0.437 0.355 0.474 0.382 0.510 9-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.257 0.342 0.282 0.376 0.308 0.410 0.334 0.445 0.359 0.479 10-POINT TYPE Ordinance price Full price 0.231 0.308 0.254 0.339 0.277 0.370 0.300 0.400 0.323 0.431 EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2013 Public Notice Rates Iowa Legal Rates For 2nd and 3rd Insertions 10 Picas 11 Picas 12 Picas 13 Picas 14 Picas 15 Picas 16 Picas 18 Picas 0.487 0.522 0.557 0.627 0.417 0.447 0.477 0.536 0.417 0.445 0.500 0.391 0.417 0.470 0.370 0.395 0.444 0.348 0.371 0.417 0.313 0.334 0.376 6-POINT TYPE 0.348 0.383 0.418 0.453 7-POINT TYPE 0.298 0.328 0.358 0.387 7 1/2-POINT TYPE 0.278 0.306 0.333 0.361 0.389 8-POINT TYPE 0.261 0.287 0.313 0.339 0.365 8 1/2-POINT TYPE 0.247 0.271 0.296 0.321 0.346 9-POINT TYPE 0.232 0.255 0.278 0.301 0.324 10-POINT TYPE 0.209 0.230 0.250 0.271 0.292 EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2013 Public Notice Forms EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2013 At the direction of the INA Board of Directors and the Government Relations Committee, the INA works with the Iowa Department of Management and other state agencies in an effort to determine the maximum cost that may be charged for each public notice prepared on a form. The instructions in the INA Publishers’ Handbook for computing the cost of a photographed notice were followed by the INA when computing the costs for the following notices. The rates which are effective for notices published on or after July 1, 2013 were used. For the most part, the notices have been designed by the state agencies to comply with the newspaper industry’s Standard Advertising Unit column measure. You may enlarge the notice or reduce it (so long as the type size does not fall below six-point type). In any event, you should not charge more than the price listed below for each notice. In some cases, the government unit placing the publication may add explanatory information at the bottom of the form. The price per line for that matter is also listed below. These notices are identified by a notice code usually found in the upper left-hand corner of each notice. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the INA for help. Form 600 Notice of County Intention to Levy General Basic Property Tax Rates Which Exceed Statutory Maximums (Precedes form 600) whenever used 3 column (SAU) X 17 lines, 8-point type $25.20 Form 630 Notice of County Public Hearing – Budget Estimate 3 column (SAU) X 109 lines, 6.5-point type $200.17 Plus $1.77 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 631.1 Notice of City Public Hearing – Budget Estimate 2 column (SAU) X 88 lines, 6-point type $115.34 Plus $1.26 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 633 Notice of Community College Public Hearing – Budget Estimate 3 column (SAU) X 75 lines, 6-point type $148.42 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form Form 644 Notice of County Public Hearing – Proposed Budget (Used by sanitary sewer, fire, water, lighting or other benefited districts) 3 column (SAU) X 31 lines, 8-point type $45.95 Plus $1.43 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Public Notice Forms Form 653A Notice of Community College Public Hearing – Amendment of Current Budget 3 column (SAU) X 28 lines, 6-point type $55.41 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 653A Misc. Notice of Public Hearing-Amendment of Current Budget (used by entities other than cities, schools or counties) 2 column (SAU) X 21 lines, 8-point type $38.00 Plus $1.74 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form Form 653AR Notice of County Public Hearing – Amendment of Current County Budget 2 column (SAU) X 99 lines, 6-point type $129.76 Plus $1.26 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 653.C1 Notice of City Public Hearing – Amendment of Current City Budget 2 column (SAU) X 88 lines, 6-point type $115.34 Plus $1.26 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 672 Notice of County Hospital Public Hearing-Proposed Budget 3 column (SAU) X 43 lines, 6-point type $85.09 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 673 Notice of Assessing Jurisdiction Public Hearing-Proposed Budget 3 column (SAU) X 38 lines, 6-point type $75.20 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form 674 Notice of Extension District Public Hearing-Proposed Budget 3 column (SAU) X 35 lines, 8-point type $51.88 Plus $1.43 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form E911-1 Notice of Joint E911 Service Board Public Hearing-Proposed Budget 3 column (SAU) X 28 lines, 6-point type $55.41 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Public NoticeForms Form F66 (IA-2) City Annual Financial Report 4 column (SAU) X 107 lines, 8-point type $212.15 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form F638-R County Annual Financial Report 4-column (SAU) X 88 lines, 8-point type $174.48 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form JDS1 Notice of Emergency Management Commission Public Hearing-Proposed Budget 2 column (SAU) X 46 lines, 6-point type $60.29 Plus $1.26 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form MH-1 Notice of County Hospital Public Hearing-Proposed Budget 4 column (SAU) X 45 lines, 8-point type $89.22 Plus $1.91 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form S-A Notice of School District Public Hearing- Proposed Budget Amendment 2column (SAU) X 29 lines, 6-point type $38.01 Plus $1.26 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form S-PB-6 Notice of School District Public Hearing- Proposed Budget 2 column (SAU) X 100 lines, 6-point type $131.07 Plus $1.26 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Form S-PB-8 Notice of School District Public Hearing- Proposed Budget 3 column (SAU) X 97 lines, 8-point type $143.78 Plus $1.43 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. No form number Notice of City Utility Hearing 3 column (SAU) X 40 lines, 8-point type $59.29 Plus $1.43 per line for any explanatory matter added at the bottom of the form. Public Notice Public Notice Cities Public Notice Cities What do I need to know about publishing minutes of my city council? The basic requirements of section 372.13(6) are relatively straightforward. The city clerk, within fifteen days of any regular or special council meeting, "shall cause" the minutes of the council’s proceedings to be published. The published minutes must include: 1. A summary of all city receipts; 2. A statement of total expenditures from each municipal fund; and 3. A list of all claims allowed by the city, including the gross amount of each claim if the amount actually allowed for that claim was less than the gross claim itself. Sample city council minutes can be found on page 51 of the INA Publishers’ Handbook. Section 372.13(6) does not require the clerk to include every detail of the proceedings. Nevertheless, the clerk “must publish every motion or resolution voted upon at every regular or special meeting and show whether it was adopted or failed.” 1972 Op. Ia. Atty. Gen. 284, 285 (Nov. 4, 1971). Preferably, the clerk should also show the members “who were present or absent and how or whether they voted on each such action, if a vote was not unanimous.” Id. The clerk should be encouraged to prepare detailed, substantively complete city council minutes that include summaries of discussions on topics under consideration. The clerk, however, must then be allowed some discretion to determine the amount of substantive detail (above the statutory minimum) actually published. Another typical area of concern revolves around the clerk’s obligation to publish “a list of all claims allowed.” Iowa Code § 372.13(6) (1987). Issues in this area generally fall into one of three categories: (1) presentation; (2) itemization; and (3) explanation. Questions of presentation generally involve the issue whether claims must be listed by fund or whether other methods of presentation can be used (e.g., listing claims by subject matter or department). Section 372.13(6) does not expressly resolve this issue. Clearly, however, claims should be presented in a way that allows the reader to identify the fund against which the claim was allowed. See 1972 Op. Ia. Atty. Gen. at 285 (emphasis added). Identifying the fund against which a claim was allowed enables the reader to determine the types of claims allowed against a particular fund. It also allows the reader to reconcile individual claims allowed against a fund with total monthly expenditures from that fund. If claims are not in some way identified by fund, the possibility exists that a clerk will inadvertently consolidate several claims that, while of a like nature (e.g., all IPERS payments), were made and allowed against different city funds. This issue is essentially a question of itemization. Specifically, what is intended by the statutory requirement that the clerk list “all claims allowed by the city?”. First, as between different municipal funds, each distinct expenditure made from or allowed against a particular fund should be listed separately. Similar claims allowed against different city funds should not be consolidated. For example, if city salaries, IPERS payments, or other similar but distinct expenses are paid from more than one city fund, a separate claim for such expenses should be listed under each fund, a separate claim for such expenses should be listed under each fund. Or, if claims are not being listed by fund, the Clerk should list the similar but differently funded claims separately and should specifically identify the particular fund against which the various salary, IPERS, or other similar but differently funded claims were allowed. Carey Salt Co., salt (RU) $245.50 Carey Salt Co., salt (WU) $325.00 Salaries, wages, regular (RU) $580.00 Salaries, wages, regular (WU) $430.00 IPERS (RU) $41.65 IPERS (WU) $30.14 RU = Road Use Tax Fund WU = Water Utility Fund Public Notice Cities Second, with respect to claims allowed under a particular city fund, all distinct, separately accounted for claims should, as a general rule, be individually listed. However, to the extent similar, closely related and regularly occurring claims made by the same claimant were allowed against a particular fund, the clerk likely has discretion to, in some manner, consolidate such claims for publication purposes. For example, if during the month general office supplies were purchased on several occasions from the same business and payment was made from one fund, the clerk likely could show a single listed claim for those supplies. Similar consolidation of claims might reasonably be made with respect to other regularly occurring monthly expenses such as regular city salaries, IPERS payments, FICA contributions, or postage. In each of these cases, however, to the extent expenditures were spread among several funds or included any unusual or non-budgeted expense (e.g., overtime salary), separately listed claims would be required. Finally, as indicated previously, questions occasionally arise regarding whether sufficient explanation of a particular claim has been given be a clerk. To comply with the requirements of section 372.13 (6), the clerk must generally make sure each claim shows (1) to whom the claim was allowed, (2) what the claim was for, (3) what the amount of the claim was, and (4) the fund against which the claim was made and allowed. The Attorney General has found the following examples to be sufficient with respect to explanation: N.W. Bell Telephone $20.00 Jones Hardware, supplies $10.00 Smith Gas Station, fire truck repair $30.00 Brown Const. Co., street repairs $1,000.00 Do cities have to publish employees’ salaries? Cities are not required by the Iowa Code to publish employee salaries. However, an Iowa Attorney General’s opinion (#78-4-7) says that city council minutes need not reflect the monthly salaries paid to each employee so long as the salaries are published at least once annually. What are the criteria for a newspaper used for publication of city notices? Does the newspaper need to be located in the city? It is not necessary for a newspaper to be physically located in a city to be considered having general circulation. Code Section 618.3 provides that for a newspaper to be used for official publication it must meet the following criteria: 1. It is a newspaper of general circulation issued at a regular frequency that has been published within the area and regularly mailed through the post office of entry for at least two years. 2. It has a list of subscribers who have paid, or promised to pay, at more than a nominal rate, for copies to be received during a stated period. 3. It devotes more than 25 percent of its total column space in more than one-half of its issues during any 12-month period to information of a public character other than advertising. 4. It is paid for by at least 50 percent of the persons or subscribers to whom it is distributed. The majority of cities with populations of more than 200 will have a newspaper that fits the above criteria and will therefore be required to publish. Does a city library board have to publish minutes? Probably not. While some library boards publish minutes and while we would encourage all boards to do so, such publication is not expressly required in Iowa Code. The boards clearly must comply with the open meetings and open records laws, however. It can be argued that because library boards are appointed by city councils which have the obligation to publish minutes, therefore the boards also must publish minutes. Our Legal Hotline attorneys tell us there does not appear to be clear statutory authority for this position, but it is a legitimate argument. Public Notice Cities Do small towns have to publish city council minutes? Iowa Code section 372.13 (page 52A of the INA Publishers’ Handbook) sets out the requirements for publishing city council proceedings. That code section includes this language: “The provisions of this subsection are applicable in cities in which a newspaper is published, or in cities of two hundred population or over, but in all other cities, posting the statement in three public places in the city which have been permanently designated by ordinance is sufficient compliance with this subsection.” My city emailed me a water quality report to be published. At the last minute they decided to place it in the city newsletter. Does this report need to be published in the newspaper? According to the INA Legal Hotline, a federal requirement enforced through the Iowa admin code requires that the report must be mailed to each customer and that the water system must make a goodfaith effort to reach people who don't get a water bill. They can do that by use of the internet, posting, advertising the availability of report, or publishing the report in a paper. They can choose one or more of the methods as long as it is reasonable. They don't have to publish the report However, systems with fewer than 10,000 customers can obtain a waiver of the mailing requirement. If they do that then they must publish the report in one or more local newspapers serving the area in which the system is located. Are there any items related to cities that may not require publishing? There are several items that cities may decide to publish that are not required by law. • Notices of job openings are not required to be published in the newspaper. However, the Veterans Preference Law (Code Chapter 35C) requires that the opening be posted 10 days prior to filling the position. The notice is to be posted at the place where the city agenda is posted. • There is no legal requirement to publish minutes of other boards and commissions. • Ordinances or amendments to ordinances are not required to be published verbatim. A summary of the ordinance is acceptable. • There is no requirement to publish an ordinance prior to its consideration where the council intends to adopt the ordinance at one or two council meetings. • There is no requirement to publish the city council agenda, only to post 24 hours in advance. City codes may have publication requirements that are more restrictive than the Code of Iowa. Public Notice Public Notice Counties Public Notice Counties When should I request status as an official county newspaper? The Iowa Code requires that boards of supervisors select official papers “at the January session each year." To be sure your newspaper is considered for selection, submit a request in writing that will be received prior to the first meeting of your county supervisors in a new year. What must our county board of supervisors include in its published proceedings? Under Iowa Code section 349.18, the Iowa legislature requires that "all proceedings of each regular, adjourned, or special meeting of a board of supervisors...be published immediately after the adjournment of the meeting." The county auditor has been assigned the responsibility to see that a copy of the proceedings to be published is provided to official county newspapers "within one week following the adjournment of the board." While little, if any, case law has interpreted the overall requirements of sections 349.16 and 349.18, the provisions, when read together, clearly require the board to provide the public with a relatively complete recitation of the matters considered by the board. First, the board must, as a general rule, publish "all procedings" of each meeting conducted by the board. Although the legislature did not specifically identify what was encompassed within the phrase "all proceedings” it is clear the legislature intended that sufficient information and material be published to reasonably inform the public of what is being done by their elected representatives. See 1970 Iowa Att'y Gen. Opin, 17, 18 (January 31, 1969). Consequently, such proceedings should reasonably include every motion or resolution voted upon by the board, including whether the motion or resolution was adopted or failed. The proceedings should also identify the members of the board who were present or absent at a particular meeting and should identify how or whether they voted on a particular action item, if the vote was not unanimous. Additionally, the county auditor should be encouraged to prepare detailed, substantively complete minutes of board activities, including summaries of discussions on topics under consideration. The auditor, however, should be allowed some discretion to determine the amount of substantive detail actually published with regard to such topics of consideration. If you believe that the minutes being published do not encompass "all proceedings,” you might wish to point out that only three specific exclusions are identified by the legislature with regard to those items otherwise encompassed within the "proceedings" of the board. These three narrow exclusions are as follows: (1) The board's canvas of various elections; (2) Witness fees for witnesses before the Grand Jury and (3) Witness fees for witnesses in District Court in criminal cases. Unless falling within one of these narrow exceptions, all proceedings should be published. In addition to publishing proceedings, the board is required to publish a schedule of bills or claims allowed by the board. In publishing the schedule of all bills or claims allowed, the board is required to include a list of all claims allowed, showing the name of the person or firm making the claim as well as the amount of the claim. While not specifically provided by statute, it is arguable that the board should also be required to provide some identification of the purpose of the payment. The schedule of bills is not required to include claims involving persons receiving public relief and, except as required on an annual basis, is not required to include the salaries of persons regularly employed by the county. Claims allowed would also include the identification of all expenditures of every county office or department approved by the board at a particular meeting. In identifying bills or claims approved by the board, each should be presented Public Notice Counties in a way that will allow the public to identify the particular fund against which the claim was allowed. Further, as between different county funds, each distinct expenditure made from or allowed against a particular fund should be listed separately. Similar claims allowed against different county funds should not be consolidated. Finally, with respect to claims allowed under a particular county fund, all distinct, separately accounted for claims should, as a general rule, be individually listed. However, to the extent similar, closely related and regularly occurring claims made by the same claimant were allowed against a particular fund, the county auditor likely has discretion to in some manner consolidate such claims for publication purposes. Third, the county board is also required to publish financial reports of the county treasurer. Such reports are to include a schedule of the receipts and expenditures of the county as well as the current cash balance in each fund in the treasurer’s office. The treasurer’s report should also identify the total amount of warrants outstanding against each fund. Finally, the board is also required to publish a synopsis of the expenditures of township trustees for road purposes. Again, as these expenditures are allowed, they should be published as part of the proceedings of the board at which such expenditures were discussed or otherwise approved. Is a subscriber list submitted during an official county newspaper contest a public record? An Iowa Attorney General’s opinion (#93-9-5) states that subscriber lists submitted during contests to determine which papers in a county should be named official county newspaper are public records. However, the opinion also states that it’s up to the custodian of the record to determine if the record shall be open to public inspection. When publishing county hospital salaries, should the name of each employee be listed along with their salary? An Iowa Attorney General’s opinion dealt with this question as follows... “Sections 347.13(15) requires country hospitals to publish annually “the schedule of salaries paid by job classification and category, but not by listing names of individual employees.” To comply with this, (a hospital in question) published two notices. The first listed the hospital departments and the salaries and wages paid in the department. As was recognized by the county, this matter was not sufficient because it did not list salaries by job classification and category and a second notice was published.” “The second notice listed each job classification and category and the salaries paid for the job. The salaries listed appear to be a range of salaries paid for the job. It is this second notice to which these opinion refers.” “The language of 347.13(15) appears plain and not ambiguous. The question is whether the second notice complied with the requirements of 347.13(15). The second notice clearly lists job categories and classifications and a schedule of salaries paid for those jobs. Therefore, it does comply with 347.13(15) .” “This does not mean that there are no other ways of publishing this information in compliance with 347.13(15). Additionally, it should be emphasized that while the employees’ names are not to be published in this notice. the names, salaries and job classifications of all employees paid in whole or part by taxes, are public record open to inspection.” Does a county hospital need to publish a budget? According to the INA Legal Hotline attorneys, there is no separate statutory requirement that the county hospital hold or give notice of a public hearing on its budget. The hospital budget will be included as part of the overall County budget and that is where the public hearing and notice requirements come into play. If a hospital is currently holding and noticing a public hearing on its budget, it is going above and beyond what is required by the statute...but there is still no requirement that they publish the actual proposed budget or budget summary. Public Notice Counties Does a county hospital have to publish its quarterly schedule of bills in all of the official county newspapers? Yes. Iowa Code section 347.13 (14) states “There shall be published quarterly in each of the official newspapers of the county as selected by the board of supervisors pursuant to section 349.1 the schedule of bills allowed and there shall be published annually in such newspapers the schedule of salaries paid by job classification and category, but not by listing names of individual employees. The names, addresses, salaries, and job classification of all employees paid in whole or in part from a tax levy shall be a public record and open to inspection at reasonable times as designated by the board of trustees.” Public Notice Public Notice Schools Public Notice Schools Does the Iowa Code require school board secretaries to publish minutes of a school board meeting within two weeks of the meeting? Section 279.36 of the Iowa Code states the school board “secretary shall furnish a copy of the proceedings to be published” to the publishing newspaper “within two weeks following the adjournment of the meeting.” The INA was involved in the drafting of this language. It was meant to make it clear that the proceedings must be delivered to the publishing newspaper within two weeks of the adjournment of the meeting. It was not meant to require publication of the proceedings within two weeks of adjournment. Section 618.18 requires newspapers to make publication of any public notice within one month of its receipt or the publishing newspaper receives 25 percent less compensation for publishing late. Please note the two-week period for school board secretaries and the one-month period for newspapers are maximums allowed by law. The INA hopes newspapers and government bodies will work together for the most timely publication of these important notices. Our school system is merging with another system. Can the paper now publishing the other system’s minutes and our paper agree to each publish the minutes of the new system while splitting the publication fee? We think so. In fact, we think that’s a great idea. Our Legal Hotline attorneys say that while the Iowa Code doesn’t specifically allow for such sharing, nothing in the code prohibits it. There should be no problem so long as the school district doesn’t end up paying more for the shared publication than it would have paid to have the minutes published in only one paper. Where does the Iowa Code require school districts to publish budget estimates? Schools are subject to the provision in section 24.9 of the Iowa Code (Local Budget Law, page 13 in the INA Publishers’ Handbook) which requires publication of a notice of the public hearing to consider the proposed budget prior to its adoption. This publication must include the proposed budget. Do school districts have to publish budgets after they have been approved? According to the INA Legal Hotline, nothing in the Iowa Code requires a school district to publish a budget after it has been approved. Schools are subject to the provision in section 24.9 of the Code (Local Budget Law, page 13 in the INA Publishers’ Handbook) which requires publication of a notice of the public hearing to consider the proposed budget prior to its adoption. This publication must include the proposed budget. Of course, school districts may publish adopted budgets if they choose, but they are not required to do so. Public Notice Schools How does a school district determine where to publish its proceedings? Iowa Code Section 279.36 requires school publications to be published "in at least one newspaper published in the district or, if there is none, in at least one newspaper having general circulation in the district." While there have been no court cases to test this language, it's the INA's opinion that a newspaper is "published" where its main office is located and where it is entered into the mail stream. Public Notice Public Notice Other Public Notice Other Why do some newspapers publish public notices in such small type? The Iowa Code sets six-point type as the minimum type size for any public notice. Any notice which is published so as to be difficult to read puts the future of public notice advertising in jeopardy. Publishers should make sure their notices are readable by all readers regardless of the type size chosen. My newspaper publishes all public notices for our town. If I were to be elected to the city council, would owning the paper be a conflict of interest prohibiting our publication of these notices? No. As we point out in the INA Publishers’ Handbook, there is no conflict of interest when a publisher holds office in a local taxing body. Chapter 68B.3 of the Iowa Code says: When public bids required. No official, employee, member of the general assembly, or legislative employee shall sell any goods having a value in excess of five hundred dollars to any state agency unless pursuant to an award or contract let after public notice and competitive bidding. This section shall not apply to the publication of resolutions, advertisements, or other legal propositions or notices in newspapers designated pursuant to law for such purpose and for which the rates are fixed pursuant to law. Who is responsible when there is an error in the publication of a public notice? According to our Legal Hotline attorneys, when a legal notice is accepted for publication, a contract undoubtedly will be found to exist between the party desiring publication of the notice and the newspaper. If this agreement is not specified in writing, the terms and conditions of the contract will be supplied through the discussions that took place between the parties. Obviously, this can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. If there is an advertising form used specifying the terms and conditions of publication, many of these potential problems and ambiguities can be eliminated. In many instances, persons requesting publication of legal or official notices rely on the newspaper to publish the notices in accordance with the various statutory requirements, without giving the newspaper specific directions. For example, this situation arises when arrangements are being made for sheriff’s sales or when governmental entities publish required notices. Such reliance increases the exposure of newspapers when the notices are not published in accordance with the relevant statutes. Assuming there is a written or oral agreement for a newspaper to publish a notice, and it fails to do so, a newspaper is potentially liable for several types of damages. First, the newspaper will be unable to collect for the cost of the publication or, if the cost is prepaid, the newspaper will be required to return the amount paid by the party placing the notice. As a practical matter, this damage element may best be resolved by the newspaper agreeing to publish the notice correctly at no charge. Second, the newspaper may be liable for certain consequential damages that result from the fact that publication did not occur. For example, if a sheriff’s sale has been scheduled related to the sale of real property, and notice of the sale is not published, the person requesting the notice could argue that the newspaper must pay for reserving all the parties to the underlying action with notice of the rescheduled sale date and for the lost value of not having its funds when the original sale was scheduled. If something happened to the value of the Public Notice Other property in the interim, reimbursement from the newspaper which failed to publish the notice also could conceivably be requested. It appears that if a party is damaged as a result of the failure of the notice to be published, the courts may allow claims to be made against the newspaper involved. To avoid this potential liability, it may be advisable for newspapers to use written order forms or agreements in which the terms of the agreement are specified, including the requirements of the notice to be published to avoid confusion or ambiguity. Even so, notices will still be left out of newspapers. As a result, a limitation of liability clause could be included in the written order form limiting recovery for failure to place the requested notice to the cost of placing the notice. By way of example, the following proposed language could be used: If [ ] shall fail to publish this notice as required by this order, in whole or in part, or shall make errors in such notice, [ ]’s liability therefore shall in no event exceed the amount of the charges allowed by law for the publication of the notice which was not published in accordance with this order. While the use of this language cannot be an absolute guarantee that the newspaper will be insulated from liability in the event of a mistake in publication of a legal notice, the provision will strengthen a newspaper’s defense of a claim for consequential damages. My county auditor has asked me to publish only one side of the school election ballot form (the side listing the candidates’ names). We used to publish both sides. Have the publication requirements been changed? No. Section 49.53 of the Iowa Code (page 13B, INA Publishers' Handbook) deals with publication of ballots. As always, the Code requires that a facsimile of the ballot be published. The ballot may be reduced, but the names of the candidates must be in type no smaller than 9 point in size. The Code also requires that the date of the election, the hours the polling places will be open, the location of each polling place and the names of the precincts voting at each polling place shall be included in the ballot notice. This information must be published, regardless of where it appears on the ballot form supplied by the county auditor but there is no requirement that it must be published in facsimile form. It is the opinion of the INA that while a facsimile of the back side of the form could be published, the information listed above could also be typeset if that is the wish of the auditor. Such typeset material should be billed at the full legal rate. Do public notice affidavits need to be notarized and can the publisher notarize his or her own affidavit? According to the INA Legal Hotline attorney, the following language may be used on public notice affidavits in lieu of notarization: “I, (name), do hereby state that I certify under penalty of perjury and pursuant to the laws of the State of Iowa that the preceding is true and correct as I verily believe. Signed (name) on (date).” If the affidavit is notarized, someone other than the publisher must serve as the notary. My county auditor says the county is only required to publish one precinct’s copy of the sample election ballot so long as all candidates in the election are listed in the text portion of the sample ballot publication. Is this correct? The Iowa Code section 49.53 requires publication of a notice of election with two elements. The first rotation of the ballot is one element and a list of all candidates is the other element. In short, your county auditor is correct. Public Notice Other Some papers publish more than one “rotation” of the ballot to be able to list all candidates’ names as they would appear on the actual ballot. Nothing in the code precludes a county auditor from choosing to publish these multiple ballots, but they are not required to do so. What do we charge for publishing sample ballots? Iowa Code Chapter 49.54 (page 13C, INA Publishers' Handbook) says the cost of publishing the sample ballot shall be determined by the director of the state department of general services or his or her designer. The current rule is that the facsimile portion of the ballot shall be charged at not more than the newspaper's regular display rate by the column inch. The reader or straight matter portion may be charged at the public notice rate by the line. The candidates' names must be published in at least nine-point type. In any city where no newspaper is published and where the population is 2,000 or less, the total cost of the ballot shall not exceed $250 for a quarter-page or $350 for a half-page. How can I determine which 28E entities exist in my readership area? All 28E entities with annual budgets exceeding $100,000 are required by law to publish their proceedings, claims and salaries. There have been over 15,000 28E agreements filed with the secretary of State’s office since 1965. Not all of them have resulted in the creation of a 28E entity. The bad news is that there is no easy way to get a list of all 28E entities in your readership area meeting the publishing requirements. The good news is that there is a tool to help you identify these agencies. The Secretary of State and Iowa State University worked together to develop a website to catalog many of these entities. The ISU website is at http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/28e/home. html. That site will take you to the Secretary of State’s 28E web page at http://www.sos.state. ia.us/28e/. At the Secretary of State’s web page you can find listings of any 28E agreement filed back to 1965. However, the actual filing documents are only available for agreements filed from 1993 to the present. There is no way to tell from the web page if the agreements listed before 1993 resulted in creation of a 28E entity. It is also impossible to tell if the 28E agreements creating 28E entities have budgets exceeding $100,000 or even if they are still in effect today. From a practical standpoint, newspapers should take their own inventory of such agreements by first talking with local cities, school districts, area education agencies, community colleges, and counties. A basic question could be asked: do you have any formalized agreements for goods/services with other governmental entities? Also, by reviewing the range of known agreements that are on file with the Secretary of State, a newspaper could reasonably presume the kind of possible services that are being shared on a local level.
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