Iowa college settles with newspaper, fires president in open meeting

IOWA — HawkeyeCommunity College recently avoided going to court after school officials agreedto the demands of a local newspaper, which accused them of violatingopen-meetings laws when the university president was fired during a closedsession. The community college settled out of court for $10,000 with theWaterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. In 1999, the Courier filed suitagainst the college when the trustees held closed meetings that led to thefiring of then-president William Hierstein.Moreover, the board oftrustees agreed to follow open-meetings laws in the future. Eight of ninecurrent board members, the majority of whom have come into office since theclosed meetings were held, voted to accept the settlement, with one abstention.Iowa open-meetings law states that the public employee whose jobperformance is discussed has the right to open or close the meeting, and to bepresent for the discussion. Hierstein was not allowed into the meeting, nor werethe reporters. The Courier alleged that the board used those meetings todiscuss Hierstein and ultimately to terminate his contract.PublisherJohn Goossen, quoted in the Courier, was glad that the case wassettled.”Our goal from the beginning was that of open, honest governmentand the public’s ‘right to know’ how its governmental bodies do business,”Goossen said. “We think this settlement serves that purpose.