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A southeast Iowa prosecutor has agreed to pay a $200 fine to resolve civil charges alleging she violated Iowa's open records law by not providing records to the family of Autumn Steele, a Burlington woman fatally shot by police in 2015.
The Iowa Public Information Board, whose special prosecutor negotiated the settlement with Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers, is to vote on the agreement at a meeting Thursday in Des Moines.
Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill, called to Steele's house on a domestic abuse call Jan. 6, 2015, said he slipped in the snow while trying to shoot Steele's attacking dog and accidentally shot the 34-year-old mother in her front yard.
Steele's family, through an attorney, filed a request Feb. 27, 2015, with Beavers' office requesting all public records related to the shooting, the settlement states.
Beavers still had the records at that time, according to Public Information Board Interim Director Margaret Johnson, and was the lawful custodian of the records as defined in Section 22 of Iowa Code, which deals with open records. However, Beavers told the Steeles on March 16, 2015, when she responded to their request, she had already sent the file to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and had not retained local copies.
'The parties hereby agree that the facts are sufficient that a reasonable fact finder could find a violation of Iowa Code Section 22.2(1) by the Des Moines County Attorney,” the settlement states. 'The Des Moines County Attorney does not admit guilt in this case.”
Beavers cooperated with the board's investigation, participating in informal resolution and creating an office policy about public records, the settlement states.
The DCI and Burlington police have refused to release records, including full body camera video and police reports, to the Steele family or the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper, saying state interpretation of the law allows them to keep secret investigative records, even if the case is closed.
Police have released 12 seconds of body camera video, but nothing else.
This has resulted in the public information board filing civil charges against the agencies. The case, which is to be decided by an administrative law judge, is set for a Jan. 6 status conference.
The nine-member board, formed in 2012 to enforce Iowa's open records and open meetings laws, has authority to issue civil fines of up to $2,500 for a knowing violation of the laws.
Steele's family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit last month.
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