Following the law, not political expediency: Rob Sand and the Iowa auditor’s office

In the last four years, the Democratic National Committee has approached my office on two separate occasions, requesting that we provide evidence of misconduct by Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds. However, I want to make it clear that we did not share any information with them whatsoever.

Iowa law mandates the Auditor’s Office to maintain confidentiality concerning allegations of misconduct and information obtained during audits. This safeguard applies irrespective of the intention behind accessing the information, whether it is to expose the wrongdoer or identify the informant.

Confidentiality was deemed extremely crucial by the lawmakers, to the extent that the Iowa Code includes a provision that permits the termination of individuals working in the Auditor’s Office if they contravene this principle. It is imperative that these informants, many of whom are apprehensive about speaking out against influential entities, feel assured that we will safeguard their anonymity. This will enable them to provide valuable information without the fear of facing any form of retaliation.

I felt incredibly frustrated when the Auditor’s Office got sued for simply trying to adhere to our duty of not disclosing confidential records. It was disheartening because this could potentially discourage future whistleblowers from coming forward, fearing that we would betray their trust. The lawsuit originated from an open records request made by the same conservative individual who insisted that if I were to be elected in 2018, I must be impeached without question. Our response to their request was no different than how we handle any other open records inquiry: we provided the information within our legal boundaries and withheld any records protected by the law.

The initial judge determined that we had followed the law. However, upon appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court deemed that there was insufficient evidence to reach a decision and ordered a reevaluation of the case. It is important to note that the Supreme Court did not find us guilty of breaking the law. Unfortunately, the GOP took advantage of this situation and released a statement falsely accusing us. They even went as far as brandishing this statement in front of the media, causing them to fall for the deception. We are grateful for the corrections made by two Iowa media outlets. Nevertheless, in today’s age, falsehoods can spread rapidly while the truth takes its time to emerge.

The suit also raises the question of whether it was necessary to provide an email from a private account discussing publicly available information that was already in the possession of the person who initiated the lawsuit. One might argue that it seems unnecessary to file a lawsuit simply to obtain a copy of something you already have, but certain lawsuits are driven by political motives.

We will soon present our argument in a different courtroom to explain the legal obligation we had to not disclose those records, including the emails from our office and the accusations against the governor. Additionally, we will continue to advocate for the protection of whistleblowers. Furthermore, because the truth is not afraid of being questioned, I will be hosting a town hall in your community in the upcoming months.

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MBS Staff
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