Iowa takes down files on governor
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s court system has blocked public access to online records detailing Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 2000 drunk driving arrest, saying they inadvertently exposed her sensitive personal information for nine months.
The records contained the governor’s Social Security number, driver’s license number and other information that should not have been made public under court rules. After an inquiry from The Associated Press last week, the court system removed public access to the files after determining that they should not have been accessible online even though they had been since last September.
Iowa Judicial Branch spokesman Steve Davis said that the Warren County clerk of court’s office in Indianola received a request for the paper files on the case Sept. 5, as Reynolds was seeking a four-year term in the November election. After retrieving them from an archive, the worker scanned the files into the Electronic Data Management System so that they could be more easily accessed by court staff in the future, he said.
Under court rules intended to protect personal privacy, the files should have been placed at a security level that allowed only court personnel to access them. Instead, the records were inadvertently made available to all users, including thousands of lawyers, court officials, media outlets and members of the public who use or subscribe to the service.
Iowa became the first state to require electronic filing of all court records in 2015. Court rules require filers to redact confidential personal information, and they can face sanctions for submissions that fail to do so. Paper files for cases that occurred before electronic filing do not have such redactions, and clerks are supposed to restrict access to them if they choose to scan those records into the system.
Davis said paper records related to the August 2000 arrest can still be accessed at the courthouse. Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett declined comment.
Reynolds has said that the arrest, her second for operating while intoxicated in a year, was a turning point. She says that she got treatment for alcoholism and has been sober since then.
Then the Clarke County treasurer, Reynolds also received a legal break that may have helped save her career in public office.
Reynolds was arrested by an Iowa State Patrol officer on Interstate 35 after a motorist called in a reckless driver. The man reported that he almost lost control of his vehicle after Reynolds’ minivan forced a vehicle traveling in the right lane over to the left and that Reynolds went into the median while traveling 65 miles per hour.
The trooper found Reynolds had an open bottle of whiskey and a blood alcohol content of .228. She agreed to the breath test at the jail after having a relative get in touch with her friend Gary Kimes — a judge who had previously served as Clarke County attorney, a report shows.
An assistant Warren County attorney later charged Reynolds with second-offense operating while intoxicated, noting Reynolds had been convicted of her first offense eight months prior. But the same day, the prosecutor amended the charge to first-offense operating while intoxicated, without giving a reason for the change.
The second-offense charge would have been an aggravated misdemeanor, which means it was an “infamous crime” under state law that could have disqualified Reynolds from voting and holding public office. Instead, she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge a month later and went on to be elected to the state Senate, lieutenant governor and governor.
The Iowa Supreme Court overruled prior precedent in 2014 and declared that only felonies, not aggravated misdemeanors, trigger the loss of voting rights.