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Cedar Rapids City Council avoids public discussion on proposal to pay newbo evolve vendors

A NewBo Evolve graphic showing the location of concert stage, security points and other festival events.
A NewBo Evolve graphic showing the location of concert stage, security points and other festival events.(KCRG)
Published: Oct. 15, 2018 at 7:06 PM CDT
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The collapse of the convention and tourism organization Go Cedar Rapids means that the organization couldn’t overcome a $2.3-million debt left over from the newbo evolve festival in early August.

Go Cedar Rapids had a plan to pay its vendors but the city of Cedar Rapids rejected that plan. And it did so in secret.

Go Cedar Rapids presented its proposal individually to city council members in order to avoid requiring discussing it in an open meeting, using a method called 'Serial Meetings'.

The Iowa Public Information Board said that the method is legal but is against the spirit of Iowa's Open Meetings law. The head of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council called it a loophole in the law that leaves voters in the dark.

"The public is being cut out on the information that is going into the decision making process," said Randy Evans with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. "The public is being denied the opportunity to share their opinions of what ought to occur."

Iowa Code section 21.2(2) defines a meeting as requiring a “…gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body’s policy-making duties. Meetings shall not include a gathering of members of a governmental body for purely ministerial or social purposes when there is no discussion of policy or no intent to avoid the purposes of this chapter.”

Neither the city nor Go Cedar Rapids gave specifics of the plans presented. But the city said all involved taxpayers bailing out Go Cedar Rapids.

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