Declaration and Evidence Supporting the City of Newton, IA’s Violation of Iowa Code Chapter 22

IOWA PUBLIC INFORMATION BOARD

Name of Complainant,
Michael J. Merritt,

vs.

Name of Respondent,
City of Newton, IA

Case No. Pending

DECLARATION AND EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE CITY OF NEWTON, IA’S VIOLATION OF IOWA CODE CHAPTER 22

1. Introduction

This complaint is being filed with the Iowa Public Information Board based upon evidence indicating the City of Newton, IA, violated Iowa Code Chapter 22 while contracting with Matthew Brick of Brick Gentry P.C. for legal representation.

2. Time of alleged violation: 0001 CST

3. Date of alleged violation: 13 MAR 2023 – This date is the date of the alleged violation because 13 MAR 2023 is the day the City of Newton, IA, confirmed that the public records they concealed from 10 MAR 2022 to 13 MAR 2023 were not confidential as initially articulated by City Attorney Brick in Exhibit (3.). The public records finally released on 13 MAR 2023 document the City of Newton, IA’s “action” regarding handling multiple years of alleged harassment complaints in the form of unwanted intimidating, alarming, and annoying sexually explicit messages from an assailant that evidence indicates also violated a no-contact order the Complainant was the protected party. A civil domestic abuse protection order that evidence indicates the Newton, IA Police Department took inadequate action. At the same time, two children were concealed from court-ordered appearances at San Diego East County Superior Court, where these children were ordered on 05 JUN 2019 to provide their testimony regarding allegations of sexual abuse utilized by Claudia J. Bergman on her 17 MAY 2019 domestic violence restraining order request that she provided zero evidence to support on 05 JUN 2019 while denying these children equal access to both parents (Iowa Code Chapter 598.1) while assisted by Sara N. Merritt an Education Director at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens who had zero court documents authorizing her custody. An Education Director, whom approximately one thousand pages of public records indicate, manages and coordinates educational events and field trips for Iowa Public School children.

4. Place of alleged violation: City of Newton, IA

5. Names of government employees/officials involved: Chief of Police Robert Burdess

6. Name of government entity involved: City of Newton, IA

7. Alleged Violation: Iowa Code Chapter 22

8. Evidence of Misuse of Iowa Code Section 22.7 and Concealment of Public Records for 433 Days.

Exhibit (1.) – On 04 JAN 2022, the Complainant requested “(a.) All Newton, IA Police Department Iowa Incident Reports mentioning the names Michael Merritt, Michael J Merritt, Michael J. Merritt, or Michael James Merritt during 01 JUL 2018 at 0001 Local Time through 03 JAN 2022 at 2359 Local Time.”

Exhibit (2.) – On 12 JAN 2022, LT Wing of the City of Newton, IA Police Department communicated to Michael J. Merritt in electronic mail, “Michael, Requests for copies of a report need to be made to one of the records clerks in the front office. This can be done M-F between 8-4:30. I have included them in this email so they will have a heads up that you want it. Also I know there is a fee to get a copy of a report. I believe it is $10.”

Exhibit (3.) – On 10 MAR 2022, the City of Newton, IA’s Attorney Matthew Brick of Brick Gentry P.C. communicated in response to Exhibit (1.), “There are certain records in response, specifically incident reports and call for service records mentioning the names in your request; however, peace officer investigative reports are exempt from public disclosure. See Iowa Code Section 22.7”

Exhibit (4.) – On 01 APR 2022, Chief of Police Robert Burdess communicated in electronic mail to the Complainant while responding to a request for an update to the public records request shown in Exhibit (1.)“Mr. Merritt, Your request is being handled by our contracted City Attorney at Brick Gentry Law Firm. Please contact them with your questions regarding these requests.”

Exhibit (9.) – On 20 JUL 2022, the Complainant filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board. The Iowa Public Information Board accepted this case, as documented in case 22FC:0071.

Exhibit (10.) – On 26 JUL 2022, the City of Newton, IA, Attorney Matthew Brick of Brick Gentry P.C. communicated to the Complainant, “Mr. Merritt, I am in receipt of your July 25th email to Chief Burdess and I have advised City staff not to speak with you directly on your outstanding open records requests, which are now the subject of claims you have filed with the Iowa Public Information Board. If you have any questions or comments about what you received from the City, please email me for a response.” At the same time, City Attorney Matthew Brick produced evidence of interfering with the Complainant’s ability to communicate with his elected and appointed leaders regarding evidence of a domestic abuse no-contact order violation that was still within the limitations of Iowa Code Chapter 802 and previous requests for records related to this criminal incident reported to the City of Newton, IA, Police Department in August 2019.

Exhibit (11.) – On 01 AUG 2022, the City of Newton, IA Attorney Matthew Brick communicated to the Complainant, “I am in receipt of your July 28th email to Chief Burdess and, as you have been previously notified, I have advised City staff not to speak with you directly on any outstanding claims.”

Exhibit (12.) – On 05 AUG 2022, the City of Newton, IA, through their contracted attorney Matthew S. Brick of Brick Gentry P.C., responded to Iowa Public Information Board case 22FC:0071. The City of Newton, IA, nor City Attorney Matthew S. Brick documented or provided evidence in this response supporting the Complainant had violated Iowa Code Section 708.7 during interactions with employees of the City of Newton, IA, as reported in Exhibit (15.).

Exhibit (13.) – On 05 AUG 2022, Jim Brick of Brick Gentry P.C. responded to the Complainant in electronic mail while communicating, “This guy could be dangerous. There is no threat of physical violence in this letter but he certainly seems to have the mind set that justifies violence.”

Exhibit (14.) – On 06 AUG 2022, the Complainant spoke with LT Winchell regarding electronic mail received from the offices of Brick Gentry P.C. on 05 AUG 2022 and the historical evidence of the City of Newton, IA Police Department’s handling of this multi-year case. Additionally, chest cam footage provided by the City of Newton, IA, capturing this interaction includes evidence of the Complainant’s only interaction with an employee of the City of Newton, IA, between the City of Newton, IA’s response to the Iowa Public Information Board shown in Exhibit (12.), and City Attorney Matthew Brick’s 08 AUG 2022 allegation against the Complainant shown in Exhibit (15.) that he violated Iowa Code Section 708.7. At the same time, City Attorney Brick and the City of Newton, IA, failed to provide evidence supporting this allegation or due process before denying the Complainant life, liberty, and access to public accommodations the City of Newton, IA, provides the public as required by Section 9 of Article 1 of the Constitution of the State of Iowa and the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Exhibit (15.) – On 08 AUG 2022, the City of Newton, IA, through their contracted attorney Matthew S. Brick communicated to the Complainant, “Mr. Merritt, Over the course of the past few months, you have sent City officials and staff dozens of emails. Your correspondence is beyond the scope of standard government and citizen communications and has reached the level of harassment. Given your past attempts to threaten and intimidate City personnel, effective immediately, any future emails from you to City staff and elected officials will not be delivered to City email addresses. This ban will last for a period of six months. This ban does not prevent you from contacting City staff or elected officials for routine City-related business via other means (i.e., letter, telephone, in person, etc.) Please take notice and govern yourself accordingly.”

Exhibit (16.) – On 09 AUG 2022, the Complainant requested, “(a.) The City of Newton, IA is requested to provide LT Winchell’s body cam footage showing evidence of Michael J. Merritt’s conduct during his only interaction with an employee of the City of Newton, IA, between City Attorney Matthew Brick’s correspondence in Enclosure 1 and 4 showing inconsistent testimony.”

Exhibit (17.) – On 10 AUG 2022, the Complainant requested, “(a.) The City of Newton, IA is requested to provide body cam footage produced in the Newton, IA Police Department business lobby on 10 AUG 2022 at approximately 1330 while an officer was speaking to Michael J. Merritt. (b.) Michael J. Merritt presented himself to the Newton, IA Police Department in their front business lobby at approximately 1330 on 10 AUG 2022 of his own free after no previous direction from the Newton, IA Police Department or indication of an investigation or desire to speak with him regarding allegations of a violation of Iowa Code Chapter 708.7. Michael J. Merritt presented himself to the Newton, IA Police Department on 10 AUG 2022 for the purpose of answering any required questions the Newton, IA Police Department had regarding allegations of a violation of Iowa Code Chapter 708.7 that were made against him by City Attorney Matthew Brick in Enclosure 4 on 08 AUG 2022.”

Exhibit (18.) – Chest cam footage captured by Officer Watson on 10 OCT 2022 of the City of Newton, IA Police Department.

Exhibit (19.) – Chest cam footage captured by Officer Zylstra on 24 OCT 2022 of the City of Newton, IA Police Department.

Exhibit (20.) – On 24 JUN 2022, Caleb Wilson struck the Complainant in a crosswalk with his car while driving without an Iowa Driver’s License. At the same time, the Respondent was returning home after personally serving correspondence to the City of Newton, IA, due to the City of Newton, IA, denying the Complainant access to public accommodations regarding communicating with his elected and appointed leaders via electronic mail.

Exhibit (21.) – On 25 AUG 2022, the Complainant requested security and chest camera footage showing the Complainant in the City of Newton, IA City Hall before the motor vehicle/pedestrian accident documented in Exhibits (19.) and (20.) The City of Newton, IA, released the chest camera footage as shown in Exhibit (19.) while denying the Complainant’s request for the security camera footage showing the Complainant on publicly viewable public property as documented in the Iowa Public Information Board case: 22FC:0116.

Exhibit (22.) – On 07 SEP 2022, the City of Newton, IA Attorney Matthew Brick responded to Exhibit (21.).

Exhibit (23.) – Chest cam footage captured by Officer Oldfield on 29 OCT 2022 of the City of Newton, IA Police Department.

Exhibit (24.) – On 18 NOV 2022, City Attorney Matthew Brick communicated in response to a request for records related to his 08 AUG 2022 allegation against Michael J. Merritt of violating Iowa Code Section 708.7, “(k.) Newton, IA Police Department Iowa Incident Report showing Michael J. Merritt violated Iowa Code Chapter 708.7 as communicated by City Attorney Matthew Brick and the City of Newton, IA on 08 AUG 2022. This criminal allegation was utilized by the City of Newton, IA, and its legal counsel City Attorney Matthew Brick as the foundation for denying Michael J. Merritt access to public accommodations (electronic mail) provided by the City of Newton, IA, to its citizens.”, “With regard to request (k), there are no documents responsive to your request as the August 8, 2022, communication does not allege a violation of Iowa Code Chapter 708.7.”

Exhibit (25.) – On 26 JAN 2023, the Complainant requested Iowa Incident Reports documenting an alleged violation of Iowa Code Section 708.7. The Newton Daily News published evidence indicating they had been provided public records for these incidents in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.). At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, as shown in Exhibit (3.), withheld this same form of report, including the name of the Complainant, while City Attorney Matthew Brick produced evidence of misusing and misrepresenting Iowa Code Section 22.7 while not providing transparency regarding his clients’ responsibilities to Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.).

Exhibit (26.) – On 28 JAN 2023, the Complainant requested Iowa Incident Reports documenting incidents alleging a no-contact order violation. The Newton Daily News published evidence indicating they had been provided public records for these incidents in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.). At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, as shown in Exhibit (3.), withheld this same form of report, including the name of the Complainant, while City Attorney Matthew Brick produced evidence of misusing and misrepresenting Iowa Code Section 22.7 while not providing transparency regarding his clients’ responsibilities to Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.).

Exhibit (27.) – On 30 JAN 2023, the Complainant requested Iowa Incident Reports documenting incidents alleging a fraudulent act; the Newton Daily News published evidence indicating they had been provided public records for these incidents in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.). At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, as shown in Exhibit (3.), withheld this same form of report, including the name of the Complainant, while City Attorney Matthew Brick produced evidence of misusing and misrepresenting Iowa Code Section 22.7 while not providing transparency regarding his clients’ responsibilities to Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.).

Exhibit (28.) – On 09 FEB 2023, City Attorney Matthew Brick responded to Exhibit (25.).

Exhibit (29.) – On 14 FEB 2023, the Complainant requested Iowa Incident Reports evidence indicates the City of Newton, IA, released to the Newton Daily News in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.) during 2022. At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, as shown in Exhibit (3.), withheld this same form of report, including the name of the Complainant, while City Attorney Matthew Brick produced evidence of misusing and misrepresenting Iowa Code Section 22.7 while not providing transparency regarding his clients’ responsibilities to Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.).

Exhibit (30.)Exhibit (3.) provides evidence that City Attorney Matthew Brick determined that Iowa Incident Reports, including the Complainant’s name (male), were Confidential in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7. At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, and City Attorney Brick produced evidence of releasing the same form of public record to a female citizen upon request. Ultimately the City of Newton, IA, and City Attorney Brick folded their cards upon the presentation of evidence in Exhibits (25.)(28.) showing their partnership with the Newton Daily News regarding the public release of the City of Newton, IA‘s processed incident reports producing arrests evidence shows were published in the Newton Daily News Police Blotter from 2018 – 2022. (In this paragraph, the word partnership is intended to describe the evidence of preferential treatment; the evidence indicates the City of Newton, IA provided the Newton Daily News with access to public records the City of Newton, IA, concealed from a male citizen requesting them. At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, has articulated it has no records in its accounts receivable database documenting the assessment of fees for public records evidence indicates were released to the Newton Daily News in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.3 as the City of Newton, IA assesses citizens requesting these records. This paradigm is possibly consistent with a municipal law enforcement department receiving cash payments from a local retailer while being provided preferential parking with the hope of elevated loss and prevention support from an external partner.)

Exhibit (31.) – On 13 MAR 2023, the City of Newton, IA, released Call For Service Reports, including the Complainant’s name (male). At the same time, providing evidence that the City of Newton, IA, and City Attorney Brick’s 10 MAR 2022 use of Iowa Code Section 22.7 to conceal these public records was discriminatory and unethical while producing evidence of providing records including the name of a female as shown in Exhibits (5.)(8.) within 24 hours.

Exhibit (32.) – On 13 MAR 2023, the City of Newton, IA, released Iowa Incident Reports, including the Complainant’s name (male). At the same time, providing evidence that the City of Newton, IA, and City Attorney Brick’s 10 MAR 2022 use of Iowa Code Section 22.7 to conceal these public records was discriminatory and unethical while producing evidence of providing records including the name of a female as shown in Exhibits (5.)(8.) within 24 hours.

Exhibit (33.) – On 14 MAR 2023, City of Newton, IA Attorney Matthew Brick communicated, “(a.) Jan. 4th request for any incident reports with your name. This was not a report provided to this office but, in talking with the City staff, it appears there are five (5) such reports. Copies would be provided upon payment of twenty-five dollars ($25.00).” At the same time, Exhibit (3.) shows City Attorney Matthew Brick responding to Exhibit (1.) dated 04 JAN 2022 while communicating the following:

“In your request #003, you requested “All Newton, IA Police Department Incident Reports mentioning the names Michael Merritt, Michael J Merritt, Michael J. Merritt, or Michael James Merritt during 01 JUL 2018 at 0001 Local Time through 03 JAN 2022 at 2359 Local Time. There are certain records in response, specifically incident reports and call for service records mentioning the names in your request; however, peace officer investigative reports are exempt from public disclosure. See Iowa Code Section 22.7.”

Exhibits (34.) – (54) – The following public records released by the City of Newton, IA on 13 MAR 2023 reflect reported incidents, including the name Michael J. Merritt that the City of Newton, IA, failed to release in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7(5) for 433 days.

Exhibit (55.) – Documents the release of Exhibits (34.) – (50.).

Exhibit (56.) – Documents the release of Exhibits (51.) – (54.).

9. What would you like the board to do?

The Complainant is requesting assistance ascertaining the reason for this 433-day delay in releasing standard Iowa Incident Reports, while evidence indicates the City of Newton, IA, provides these records to other citizens that request them in accordance with Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.). At the same time, the City of Newton, IA, previously established the public records provided on 13 MAR 2023 were Confidential while releasing zero public records related to the reported incidents requested in violation of Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.).

The Complainant requests the Iowa Public Information Board to assist the City of Newton, IA, with developing local policy that helps prevent this from happening in the future. At the same time, assist the City of Newton, IA, with better-published transparency and guidance regarding citizens’ rights in accordance with Iowa Code Chapter 22 to prevent the possibility of an overzealous city attorney executing any other actions other than what is required in accordance with Iowa Code Chapter 22.

The Complainant requests assistance from the Iowa Public Information Board with confirming the City of Newton, IA, has provided all Iowa Incident Reports as originally requested on 04 JAN 2022 and allegedly provided on 13 MAR 2023.

Exhibits

(1.) Freedom of Information Request to the City of Newton, Iowa – #003 – 04 JAN 2022
(2.) Electronic Mail – LT Wing – Newton IA Police Department – 12 JAN 2022
(3.) Memorandum – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 10 MAR 2022
(4.) Electronic Mail – Rob Burdess – Newton IA Police Department – 01 APR 2022
(5.) Electronic Mail – Monica L Speaks – 22 JUN 2022 – 1352
(6.) Electronic Mail – LT Cook – 22 JUN 2022
(7.) Newton IA PD – 2218513 – 22 JUN 2022
(8.) NPD – Receipt – 21388 – 23 JUN 2022
(9.) Declaration – Michael J Merritt – City of Newton IA Alleged Violation of Iowa Code Chapter 22 – 20 JUL 2022
(10.) Electronic Mail – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 26 JUL 2022 – 0732
(11.) Electronic Mail – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 01 AUG 2022 – 1248
(12.) Memorandum – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 05 AUG 2022
(13.) Electronic Mail – Jim Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 05 AUG 2022

(15.) Electronic Mail – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry PC – 08 AUG 2022 – 1139
(16.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton, IA – #009 – 09 AUG 2022
(17.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton, IA – #010 – 10 AUG 2022

(20.) NPD – Iowa Arrest Report – 22-25438 – 25 AUG 2022
(21.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton IA – #012 – 25 AUG 2022
(22.) Memorandum – City Attorney Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 07 SEP 2022


(24.) Memorandum – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry P.C. – 18 NOV 2022
(25.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton – IA – #025 – 26 JAN 2023
(26.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton – IA – #026 – 28 JAN 2023
(27.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton – IA – #027 – 30 JAN 2023
(28.) Memorandum – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry PC – 09 FEB 2023
(29.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton – IA – #030 – 14 FEB 2023
(30.) Iowa Open Records Request – City of Newton IA – #036 – 10 MAR 2023
(31.) NPD – Receipt – 21733 – 13 MAR 2023
(32.) NPD – Receipt – 21734 – 13 MAR 2023
(33.) Memorandum – Matthew Brick – Brick Gentry PC – 14 MAR 2023
(34.) NPD – CFS – 19-009177 – 01 APR 2019
(35.) NPD – CFS – 19-010353 – 11 APR 2019
(36.) NPD – CFS – 19-010419 – 12 APR 2019
(37.) NPD – CFS – 19-011336 – 20 APR 2019
(38.) NPD – CFS – 19-023534 – 03 AUG 2019
(39.) NPD – CFS – 19-26175 – 25 AUG 2019
(41.) NPD – CFS – 19-026432 – 27 AUG 2019
(42.) NPD – CFS – 19-031709 – 08 OCT 2019
(43.) NPD – CFS – 19-033389 – 22 OCT 2019
(44.) NPD – CFS – 19-040267 – 23 DEC 2019
(45.) NPD – CFS – 20-002558 – 24 JAN 2020
(46.) NPD – CFS – 20-006794 – 01 MAR 2020
(47.) NPD – CFS – 20-008148 – 12 MAR 2020
(48.) NPD – CFS – 21-002100 – 20 JAN 2021
(49.) NPD – CFS – 22-000705 – 08 JAN 2022
(50.) NPD – CFS – 22-025438 – 24 AUG 2022
(51.) NPD – Iowa Incident Report – 19-26175 – 30 AUG 2019 (50.1) 19-26175 Evidence
(52.) NPD – Iowa Incident Report – 20-8148 – 12 MAR 2020
(53.) NPD – Iowa Incident Report – 21-2100 – 20 JAN 2021 (52.1) 21-2100 Evidence
(54.) NPD – Iowa Incident Report – 22-705 – 08 JAN 2022 (53.1) 22-705 Evidence
(55.) NPD – Receipt – 21,733 – 13 MAR 2023
(56.) NPD – Receipt – 21734 – 13 MAR 2023

Legal Disclaimer: Exhibit (50.1) was released as a public record by the City of Newton, IA. At the same time, the author of this correspondence is not publishing this exhibit online because it includes electronic correspondence from a citizen that has yet to reach the age of majority. Exhibits (50.) – (53.) provide evidence of Iowa Incident Reports the City of Newton, IA concealed on 10 MAR 2022 while providing evidence of a violation of Iowa Code Section 22.7(5.). All “CFS” reports without a corresponding Iowa Incident Report are calls for service evidence, indicating that the City of Newton, IA, decided not to produce or file a report. Logic would suggest that if Chief of Police Burdess and City Attorney Brick of Brick Gentry P.C. felt the City of Newton, IA’s adequately handled these calls for service, it would be reasonable to believe they would have released them over 433 days ago when they were initially requested. The originator of this complaint is still quality-checking the accuracy of the public records received from the City of Newton, IA, given that multiple individual records were provided in a front/back disaster of public records organization. At the same time, the evidence indicates the production and release of these records reflect the same paradigm of leadership that produced them when they were initially filed.