Transparency Question Creates Tension at University of Iowa

University of Iowa President Sally Mason addresses the Legislature about budget cuts, one of the results of which has led to the University loosing faculty members to other schools, Wednesday February 9, 2011 in Des Moines. (Becky Malewitz/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Max Walker

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A seemingly mundane issue has put University of Iowa President Sally Mason on the defensive: the interpretation of Iowa's public records law.

The university has routinely refused to release records related to employee and student controversies by citing exemptions in the law. The practice appears to have recently backfired, bringing criticism from Gov. Terry Branstad about a lack of transparency and forcing Mason to address speculation that she could be facing pressure to resign.

Mason says she cannot release personnel records of students or employees without violating the law. She says she'll stick with her legal interpretation to protect privacy.

Bill Monroe, Branstad's government transparency adviser, says he's concerned about the legal advice Mason is receiving. He and others argue the law gives agencies the discretion to release records.

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