Stephen Gruber-Miller | Des Moines Register
Watch: Gov. Reynolds responds to questions of transparency in media coverage
The Iowa Department of Health should be responding to emails from news outlets, Reynolds said, but staff there is dealing with effects of the pandemic and the derecho.
State lawyers admitted in a court filing this month that a staffer for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told a health department spokesperson to withhold information about the Test Iowa program requested under the state’s open records law.
The admission came in the state’s answer to a lawsuit filed by former Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson Polly Carver-Kimm. She sued the state in September for wrongful discharge after she was ousted from her job in July. She alleges the was ousted in part because she tried to comply with Iowa’s open records law by providing information to reporters.
Carver-Kimm says in the lawsuit that Reynolds’ spokesperson, Pat Garrett, told her at least once not to provide records about Test Iowa patient evaluation questions that had already been approved for release by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Carver-Kimm said she would follow up weekly with Garrett to ask to release the records. She received only one single-word reply from him: “Hold.”
Lawyers from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which is representing Reynolds, Garrett and the state of Iowa in the lawsuit, generally denied the allegations raised in Carver-Kimm’s lawsuit but admitted Garrett told her at least once not to honor an open records request.
“On at least one occasion, Defendant Garrett told Plaintiff to hold the release of an open records request that included records related to Test Iowa messages,” state lawyers wrote in the court filing, which is dated Oct. 7.
Previously: Former Iowa public health spokesperson sues the state, claiming she was fired for releasing public information
Sara Craig, Reynolds’ chief of staff, said in a statement that the governor’s office often reviews responses to records requests before releasing them.
“It’s common for the governor’s office to review open records responses from the executive branch, especially those related to the COVID-19 response, prior to their release,” Craig said in the statement.
Carver-Kimm had been an IDPH spokesperson since 2007 before she was ousted this year. In the lawsuit, she describes a series of incidents in which she was criticized or reprimanded for fulfilling reporters’ requests for information during the COVID-19 pandemic and said she was gradually relieved of her duties as a public information officer.
A trial-scheduling conference for the case is set for Nov. 19.
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Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.