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  Category: 10001 Declaration of Policy

Attorney General Matt Denn


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10001-declarations

17-IB23 07/14/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Ms. Shannon Marvel re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Division of Public Health

Written on: July 14th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner filed two complaints regarding the Division of Public Health (“DPH”) and information the Petitioner sought from DPH regarding seized dogs. On February 9, 2017, the Petitioner alleged that DPH violated the public records provisions of FOIA by 1) not providing the records of where the dogs were located, whether they were alive, and the dates of transfer to facilities and 2) not indicating whether DPH had requested them from the Brandywine Valley SPCA (BVSPCA), which took custody of the dogs and which the Petitioner considered a public body. HELD: There was no FOIA violation. DPH did not have possession or control over the records sought because the dogs were in the custody of BVSPCA, which thus controlled the records. BVSPCA is determined to not be a public body.

On March 21, Petitioner alleged that DPH violated the public records provisions of FOIA by 1) denying the Petitioner’s request for the medical records of dogs seized from a property and 2) taking too much time to respond. HELD: There was no FOIA violation. Because there is a criminal case in which the dogs’ medical records are evidence, the records were properly denied as investigatory. The fact that the defendant may access them does not make the records public. Further, there was no evidence in the record that the delay for legal review was improper or that the new timeframe for response was estimated in bad faith.


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17-IB22 07/13/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Richard Roth re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Department of Justice

Written on: July 14th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that the Department of Justice had denied him specific records requested. HELD: There was no FOIA violation. The records referred to in the petition were not sought in the original request. DOJ did not produce records in response to the original request because the only responsive records identified were exempt from FOIA. DOJ is directed to treat the petition as a new request for records as of the date of the opinion.


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17-IB21 07/13/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Ms. Pamela Cranston re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

Written on: July 13th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Sussex Conservation District violated FOIA by not providing certain documents related to a proposed development project. HELD: These documents are part of a regulatory rather than investigatory process which would ultimately be public, and courts have not agreed with the argument that revealing such documents would chill an applicant’s ability to bring their drafts into regulatory compliance. The records are therefore not exempt, and this Office recommends that DNREC and the SCD provide all public records, subject to the redaction of nonpublic information, to the requester within 15 days of this opinion and that they review and revise the SCD FOIA policy as needed to come into compliance.


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17-IB20 07/12/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Melvin Cusick re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Town of South Bethany

Written on: July 12th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that the Town of South Bethany’s Town Council (the “Council”) violated FOIA by: 1) failing to provide seven days’ notice of its January 9, 2017 meeting, 2) failing to include an explanation in its January 6, 2017 meeting notice as to why seven days’ notice could not be given, 3) failing to timely notify the Petitioner that the meeting was to discuss their employment, 4) failing to provide the Petitioner an option to have an open public meeting, and 5) voting or otherwise deciding to terminate your employment prior to the January 9, 2017 meeting. HELD: The Council violated FOIA by failing to provide notice of the January 9th meeting in the required timeframe. Even in the event the special meeting was justified, the Council failed to explain in its January 6th notice why the meeting must be held without seven days’ notice and thus would still be found in violation. In response to the third and fourth allegations, this Office determines that FOIA does not entitle an employee to be notified that a public meeting will include discussion of them or to give the employee the opportunity to have that discussion heard in open session. In response to the fifth allegation, the Office determines that there was not sufficient evidence to support the allegation that the Council decided in advance of the public meeting to terminate the Petitioner’s employment.

It is unlikely that a court would direct that the Town re-notice the meeting and decide the matter anew and thus this Office does not recommend such remediation. This Office recommends that the Town follow the requirement of seven days’ notice of public meetings in the future and that they include explanations in their meeting notices when seven days’ notice cannot be given.


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17-IB19 07/12/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Michael Dworiak re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the City of Wilmington

Written on: July 12th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that the City of Wilmington violated FOIA when it denied his request for firearms qualifications records of sworn Fire Department members. HELD: Firearms qualifications records are not exempt as personnel files, the release of which would violate personal privacy, and are further not exempt under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. The City is directed to provide the responsive documents within 10 calendar days of this opinion.


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17-IB18 07/11/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Greg Wood re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Department of Insurance

Written on: July 11th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that the Department of Insurance (“DOI”) did not reply to his request for records within the 15 business days allotted by FOIA. DOI responded that they had not received the mailed request, but discovered that the emailed request had been deleted. HELD: DOI violated FOIA by failing to respond to a requestor in the manner required by FOIA. However, because DOI has since responded and has further instituted new procedures for handling such requests by email, no remediation is recommended.


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17-IB17 07/11/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Frank Cannon re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the City of Seaford

Written on: July 11th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged in February 2017 that the Seaford City Council (“Council”) violated FOIA’s open meetings provisions because the agenda for its 2017 Planning Session/City Planning Session (“2017 Planning Session”) was not provided with the notice for the meeting and further omitted major items of public business discussed during the meeting. Petitioner filed a new petition in April 2017 alleged that the Council violated FOIA’s open meetings provisions by failing to provide complete public notice of the planning sessions conducted by the Council in the years 2007 through 2016. Council considered this meeting to be a retreat and thus not a meeting subject to FOIA.

HELD: At this meeting, the Council engaged in fact-gathering and broad discussions about issues currently or expected to come before them, which is is sufficient to constitute a meeting subject to the open meetings provisions of FOIA. Because the lack of a timely agenda for the 2017 Planning Session and omissions from that agenda are not contested, the City is held to have violated FOIA. This office declined to consider the allegations related to the 2007-2016 meetings because they are annual events and thus outside the six month window within which we would generally consider petitions.


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17-IB16 07/10/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Kevin Ohlandt re: FOIA Complaint Concerning Early College High School

Written on: July 10th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that Early College High School (“ECHS”) violated the open meetings provisions of FOIA. This allegation was based on complaints that the door to the building where the meeting was held was locked before or at the beginning of meetings. HELD: This Office is unable to consider the allegation without more information, such as dates on which the alleged conduct occurred, which the Petitioner may submit in a new petition.

He further alleged that ECHS’s Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (“CBOC”) violated the open meetings provisions of FOIA by not posting a notice for their Spring 2017 meeting on their website. HELD: FOIA does not include a requirement that a charter school post notice online.

He further alleged that ECHS’s public comment policy “is unnecessarily vague and is also obtrusive to the spirit of the public’s ability to speak to a public body untethered.” HELD: The allegation does not provide any information on whether or how the policy may have been applied in a manner that would violate FOIA. The Petitioner may to submit a new petition with facts that may support such an allegation.


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17-IB15 07/07/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Ms. Gloria Markowitz re: FOIA ComplaintConcerning the Milford School District Board of Directors and Citizens Budget Oversight Committee

Written on: July 7th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that the Milford School District Board of Directors violated FOIA by: 1) adding an action item to the agenda as an addendum the day of its June 20, 2016 meeting, 2) failing to include a reason for the delay in posting this item, and 3) failing to properly identify the item as a tax rate change on the agenda. Petitioner further alleged that the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (“CBOC”) violated FOIA by failing to post an agenda in advance of its June 14, 2016 meeting that included its intent to discuss the Fiscal Year 2017 tax rate increase.
HELD: The Milford School District CBOC violated FOIA by failing to provide sufficient notice of its intent to discuss the Fiscal Year 2017 tax rate proposal at its June 14, 2016 meeting. The Milford School District Board of Directors also violated FOIA by failing to provide sufficient notice of its intent to discuss and vote upon the matter at its June 20, 2016 meeting. This Office does not have the statutory authority to invalidate the CBOC or Board’s actions as requested by Petitioner. The CBOC and Board are encouraged to pursue FOIA training and review the educational materials DOJ publishes online for FOIA Coordinators.


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17-IB14 07/06/2017 FOIA Opinion Letter to Dr. Brian Simbirski re: FOIA Complaint Concerning New Castle County

Written on: July 6th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

Petitioner alleged that New Castle County improperly denied his request for records because he is not a Delaware citizen. HELD: There was no FOIA violation. The statute does not prohibit a public body from denying a request on the basis that the requesting party is not a Delaware citizen.


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