16 February 2022
From: Michael J. Merritt
PO BOX 294
Newton, IA 50208
Active Duty Military Retired/Writer
To: Marty Arganbright, Guthrie County Sheriff
200 North 5th Street
Guthrie Center, Iowa 50115
Info: Guthrie Center City Hall
200 North 5th Street
Guthrie Center, Iowa 50115
Iowa Public Information Board
Wallace Building, Third Floor
502 East 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Subj: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION STATUS REQUEST TO GUTHRIE COUNTY, IA/SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT – #002
Ref: 1. THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 5 U.S.C. § 552
2. Iowa Open Records Act – Iowa Code Chapter 22
3. Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444 (Iowa 2013)
4. Freedom of Information Request to the City of Guthrie Center, Iowa – #001, 03 DEC 2021
5. Freedom of Information Status Request to the City of Guthrie Center, IA and Guthrie County, IA – #001, 14 FEB 2022
6. Guthrie County, IA Sheriffs Department 15 FEB 2022 Electronic Mail Response
Reference 4 was sent to the City of Guthrie Center, IA, and the Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department in December 2021. Reference 5 was sent to the City of Guthrie Center, IA, and Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department via electronic mail on 15 FEB 2022. The Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department, responded on 15 FEB 2022 with the following:
I have Know idea what you are asking for in this email.
Sun Tzu states in the “Art of War”:
“If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”
2. Requested Information
(a.) All Guthrie County, IA and Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department end-user interaction with the following uniform resource locators (URL) during 01 JAN 2017 at 0001 Local Time through 03 DEC 2021 at 2359 Local Time:
(b.) All Guthrie County, IA and Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department end-user electronic mail/attachments mentioning domains in paragraph 2(a.).
(c.) All Guthrie County, IA and Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department end-user electronic mail/attachments including the names Michael Merritt, Michael J Merritt, Michael J. Merritt, ******** Buttler, ******** A Buttler, ******** *. Buttler, ******** *** Buttler, ****** Buttler, ****** * Buttler, ****** *. Buttler, ****** *** Buttler, ****** Buttler, ****** * Buttler, ****** *** Buttler, *** Merritt, *** * Merritt, *** *. Merritt, *** *** Merritt, ****** Merritt, ****** * Merritt, ****** *. Merritt, ****** *** Merritt during 01 JAN 2017 at 0001 Local Time through 03 DEC 2021 at 2359 Local Time
(d.) All Guthrie County, IA, and Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department incident reports regarding Michael J. Merritt, *** *** ** *, Newton, IA 50208, ******** *** Buttler of *** * *** **, Guthrie Center, IA 50115, or ****** *** Merritt, **** *** **, Guthrie Center, IA 50115.
(e.) The desired format of requested data: Portable Document Format/Thumb drive (at the Guthrie County published rate):
(f.) The originator of this request is not responsible for any costs generated by the production or organization of this data if the clerical, professional, clerical staff, legal fees, or any other required actions or cost exceed 10 hours or $1000 (whichever comes first) without prior coordination and approval from the originator of this request.
(g.) Distribution of Requested Data: Priority Mail sent to the originator of this request.
This request has been communicated clearly and distinctly, as demonstrated by the compliance and release of records during December 2021 by other State of Iowa law enforcement agencies that received requests in the same format requesting similar information as provided to the Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department. It is not the responsibility of the originator of this memorandum (and the original FOIA/Iowa Open Records Request) to provide the Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s Department legal advice or any additional assistance in comprehending this request that an Iowa Court may later determine to be unreasonable while producing a delay to the release of records authorized by Iowa Code Chapter 22.
The Iowa Supreme Court Communicates in Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444 (Iowa 2013):
“Civil enforcement of Iowa’s Open Records Act initially places the burden of showing three things on the party seeking enforcement (Horsfield). That party must “demonstrate[ ] to the court that the defendant is subject to the requirements of this chapter, that the records in question are government records, and that the defendant refused to make those government records available for examination and copying by the plaintiff.” Iowa Code § 22.10(2). Once a party makes these showings, the defendant has the burden to show compliance, and the court must issue an injunction if it finds the defendant has not complied by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. § 22.10(3)(a); see also Diercks, 806 N.W.2d at 653 (“Once the citizen shows the city denied his or her request to access government records, the burden shifts to the city to demonstrate it complied with the chapter’s requirements.”).”
A citizen or public servant failing to understand the gravity of their actions or responsibilities related to the Iowa Code does not excuse them for actions they execute or fail to. For example, suppose a citizen violates the Iowa Code in Guthrie County, IA, and is detained by Chief Deputy Jeremy Bennett. In this case, they communicate, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” Their ignorance/failure to understand their violation of the Iowa Code does not excuse them from being held accountable to it. Ignorance of the Iowa Code does not justify a private citizen’s failure to adhere to it or a public servant’s responsibility.
The Guthrie County Sheriff’s Department’s competence, professionalism, and response 60 days after initially receiving an Iowa Open Records Request displays possible resistance to their responsibilities under Iowa Code Chapter 22. The Guthrie County, IA Sherrif’s Department should have addressed its inability to comprehend the request with the originator sooner than nearly 60 days after receiving it when asked for an update regarding their delay in responding to it.
The more concerning issue is the Chief Deputy of the Guthrie County, IA Sheriff’s office. If Chief Deputy Bennett cannot competently and professionally respond to the administrative nature of an Iowa Open Records request under Iowa Code Chapter 22, how can his competence and professionalism with a lethal weapon be trusted while interacting with citizens?
In my experience with Iowa law enforcement, I have noticed a level of prejudicial authoritarian entitlement that is not reinforced by the laws of the State of Iowa. This behavior is the foundation of my Iowa Open Records Requests to Marshalltown, IA, Newton, IA, and Ames, IA. I have no grievance with the City of Guthrie Center, IA, or Guthrie County, IA personnel, including its Sheriff’s department. My only concern is the reason for its failure to appropriately, professionally, and adequately respond to a simple records request regarding the contents of Iowa Incident Reports it has processed.
Michael J. Merritt
PO BOX 294
Newton, IA 50208