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Official’s appointment to public records board criticized

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The appointment of an Iowa Department of Human Services spokesman to the state public records board will make it easier for the department to deny access to information, a freedom of information advocate said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Matt Highland to the Iowa Public Information Board on Wednesday. The board can enforce open records laws when government organizations deny or fail to respond to requests for access to public records or meetings.

Iowa Freedom of Information Council director Randy Evans  told The Des Moines Register the appointment could mute cases beyond just those involving the human services department.

The governor’s office defended Highland’s appointment, which is pending Senate confirmation. Spokesman Pat Garrett says whether it’s fulfilling open records requests, promoting transparency and open government, Highland was a perfect candidate for the vacant position.

The Department of Human Services often is named in complaints to the information board.

The rationale behind his appointment, Highland said, “is to provide the expertise I’ve built in my role.” He said he would excuse himself from all department-related complaints.

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