Iowa bill to keep volunteers secret may shield criminals, critics say
Iowa would make the names of public volunteers confidential under a fast-moving bill that critics warn could protect pedophiles and other criminals who are found working for government and public institutions in nonpaying positions, sometimes with children.
"Just think about that the next time a school volunteer is found to have been involved in molesting a child,” said Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and the Register's former opinion page editor. "This is about accountability and public safety. The citizens of Iowa have a right to know who is performing government services on their behalf.”
The bill, House File 403, applies to governments and public institutions, including publicly owned hospitals. It does not apply to most nonprofits or businesses, where employee and volunteer information already is typically excluded from the state's public records law.
It is a product of the lobbying efforts of the Iowa Hospital Association, which contends that public disclosure has a possible "chilling effect" on volunteer efforts. The association and its 118 member hospitals recently voted in favor of adding what would become the 70th exemption to the state’s 50-year-old open records law.