After noticing the website to tattle on other Iowans and food businesses who do not follow COVID-19 orders, The Iowa Standard contacted the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals to ask a few questions.
Included are the questions we asked, and the answer we received.
- Who decided to make the page for Iowans to report on food businesses that don’t follow COVID restrictions?
- How much time (resources) did/does it take to create the website, organize the website, review complaints, etc?
- Does the department believe this is the best use of taxpayer dollars during a pandemic?
- Why are you encouraging photos and videos of Iowans be taken when they are out eating or at a bar?
- Will their privacy be respected at all? What happens to any photos or videos submitted to the website?
- Does the department and state of Iowa really believe it is in the best interest of Iowans during a pandemic to have other Iowans out there taking photos and videos of other who are simply out trying to live their lives and enjoy their freedom?
- Will businesses be punished based simply on “reports” of breaking the edicts?
Stefanie Bond, the communications director for Iowa DIA, said that the department is charged with regulating food and hotel businesses and health facilities in Iowa. She said DIA has had online complaint forms available since 2005.
In July of 2020, DIA and the Alcoholic Beverages Division announced enforcement of the social distancing and public health measures for restaurants and bars outlined in the governor’s proclamation for COVID. The complaint form was available in July as well.
“Because the requirements for bars and restaurants have changed throughout the pandemic, the form mirrors the requirements outlined in the current proclamation,” Bond said. “Some of the requirements in previous proclamations were only for specific counties. The form for COVID-related violations was created to help manage the complaints the department was already receiving prior to July 2020.”
According to Iowa law, complainant information is confidential. Complaints are reviewed and DIA provides education to businesses about the requirements outlined in the governor’s proclamations.
“To date, DIA has issued two warnings to food-only establishments,” Bond said.
Bond referred us to ABD for actions taken against establishments with liquor licenses.
We followed up asking if the complaint form is done in conjunction with anyone from the Governor’s office. And again asked if the DIA believes it is appropriate to ask Iowans to get photos and videos of other Iowans with no way of knowing whether exemptions apply to those individuals and families.
So far, we haven’t heard back.