First Amendment Audit Makes Hancock County Question What’s Public

A free press phenomenon known as the “First Amendment Audit” was part of the discussion Monday among Hancock County officials. First Amendment Audits are categorized as an American social movement of non-professional journalists who collect and report news, usually via the internet, to test constitutional rights. These citizen journalists (as they are often called) typically travel to a place that is open to the public, such as a police station, and openly photograph or record buildings and activities.  Due to the First Amendment, these auditors are free to photograph or videotape activity in a public place.

Hancock County Supervisor Jerry Tlach says after watching videos of these audits in Iowa, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution Monday to designate portions of the Hancock County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center as non-public areas.

According to Resolution #2019-014, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors has determined that providing signage to designate non-public areas of the courthouse and law enforcement center is in the best interests of the citizens of Hancock County, and Tlach tells why.

The newly adopted resolution designates the following as non-public areas within the Hancock County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center:

  • All office work space areas that have an entrance with secured access doorways
  • Storage areas that have secured access doorways
  • Safes located in the basement of the courthouse with doorways located in the hallway
  • Employee breakroom located in the basement of the courthouse
  • Judicial office chambers and court staff offices
  • Hallway running North and South on the 3rd floor leading to the judge’s chambers, excluding the portions leading to the jury room and law library
  • Copy room located on the 1st floor adjacent to the Treasurer’s office
  • Treasurer’s office space area adjacent to the driver’s licensing area
  • Board of Supervisor’s meeting space and offices when not in session