Iowa State Fair makes secret ballot public after legality questions

Gary Slater, CEO of the Iowa State Fair, speaks about the board's decision to cancel the fair in 2020. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Iowa State Fair board has publicly posted the results of its secret ballot vote that resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 Iowa State Fair after questions about the legality of the vote, said Mindy Williamson, spokesperson for the Iowa State Fair.

Iowa State Fair Board members voted 11-2 to “postpone” the fair until 2021, during a meeting in the Elwell Family Food Center on the fairgrounds Wednesday. The vote occurred without discussion and a secret ballot was used so the public could not see how each board member voted. The 2020 fair is not expected to be rescheduled.

The following board members voted in favor of postponing the fair:

Jerry Parkin
Randy Brown
Darwin Gaudian
Gary McConnell
Curtis Claeys
John Harms
Deb Zumbach
Gary VanAernam
C.W. Thomas
Julie Kinney, on behalf of Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig
Bob Dodds on behalf of Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State University president

The following board members were not in favor:

Tennie Carlson
Alan Brown

Absent:

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, on behalf of Gov. Kim Reynolds

Iowa Capital Dispatch and others raised questions Wednesday surrounding the legality of the board conducting its vote privately.

Margaret Johnson, executive director of the Iowa Public Information Board, said she consulted with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which notified her the board should follow Iowa Chapter 21. The law stipulates meetings must be open to the public, as well as the record and results of votes.

Johnson said she consulted with the Iowa State Fair’s attorney who was receptive to making the vote public.

Williamson said it was not the fair’s intent to hide the results of the vote. She said the board chose to use a ballot method instead of a roll-call vote because they wanted written documentation. Board members did not write their names on the ballots.