Iowa Supreme Court hears public records dispute over emails to State Auditor

DES MOINES — The head of a conservative law firm is asking the Iowa Supreme Court to find that State Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, has violated the state’s public records law.

Alan Ostergren, chief counsel of the Kirkwood Institute, asked the auditor for emails related to Sand’s since discredited claim that the governor improperly used federal COVID-19 funds for a public service announcement. Ostergren appeared before the Iowa Supreme Court Thursday. “Who audits the auditor?” Ostergren asked. “Do we have in our law that the auditor is just above examination to make sure he is discharging his duties correctly?”

A district court judge dismissed the case last year, saying the emails could be kept confidential because they’re part of an audit or examination.

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Dana Oxley says state law protects information received in an audit. “For me, that’s really the issue, is how do we decide whether or not something is within an audit when we’ve got an affidavit from the auditor that says this information was received, they identify the dates, they identify specific audit reports and audits that are ongoing,” Oxley said.

Ostergren has been seeking an email chain that includes comments from State Auditor Sand, an Associated Press reporter and a blogger. Sand has said he denied the request because it would chip away at his ability to protect whistleblowers and save taxpayers money.