Written on: May 27th, 2008 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission (“RBPC”) did not properly notice reconsideration of a partition application when it did not list the possibility of waiver of the municipal code provision to consider the application. Agenda reflected reconsideration of the partition application but did not list possibility of waiver. HELD: Major topic of discussion for the meeting was reconsideration of the partition application which was properly and timely posted in the agenda. Waiver was only the procedural mechanism by RBPC allowed application to proceed. It was not a separate and distinct topic which required a separate listing in agenda. FOIA does not require public body to detail in agenda every possible course of action it might take in discussing an agenda topic.
Complainant alleged that City violated FOIA’s open meetings requirements when it adopted ordinance reducing number of members and term limits of Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission (“RBPC”) by not properly including those matters on agenda and discussed matter privately in serial emails with a quorum of City Commissioners. Agenda referred to RBPC as a “committee” and not “commission,” and did not list issue of term limits. HELD: Definition of “committee” and “commission” are not identical and possibility of confusion exists. Issue of term limits was also not properly noticed because it was neither on agenda nor did it arise at time of meeting. City violated FOIA by not clarifying that commissions and boards, as well as committees, would be discussed at meeting and not including term limits as a matter to be discussed. Emails complained of do not constitute closed meeting of a quorum in violation of FOIA. Emails did not stimulate discussion or any action by City Commissioners in advance of public meeting. No remediation necessary because departures from FOIA did not rise to level of egregiousness to warrant the very serious sanction of invalidating votes.
Complainant alleges that Town violated FOIA regarding the Middletown Action Network (“MAN”) and amendments to town charter. Among other things, Complainant alleges that (i) the Mayor improperly appointed two additional MAN members’ (ii) Middletown held non-public MAN meetings; and (iii) an amendment of the Middletown charter was formulated without public notice and the amendment was not mentioned in Mayor’s oral remarks at the public meeting. Town acknowledged that MAN was created by ordinance on October 1, 2007 and held two or three meetings after its creation, but prior to the approval of their bylaws, but that Mayor did not appoint two additional members. Therefore, MAN meetings were not subject to FOIA. Town further acknowledged that charter amendment removed a $4 million debt limit and that amendment was properly and timely notice for a public meeting. HELD: Mayor not required to hold public meeting to take executive action even if he chose to add members to MAN. The MAN meetings were held in violation of FOIA. MAN became a public body when ordinance creating it was passed. However, FOIA violations are those of MAN, not the Town. With respect to Mayor’s comments about charter amendment at public meeting, FOIA does not concern itself with content of public meeting unless the meeting fails to conform to proposed agenda. Accordingly, Mayor’s oral remarks are not a FOIA issue.