Written on: March 17th, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the Appoquinimink School District violated the open records requirements of FOIA by not allowing reasonable access to public records. HELD: Computer generated records are “public records” for purposes of FOIA and are not exempt for disclosure. Any hard-copy documents which form the basis of the reports are also disclosable public records. Even though producing public records may be burdensome, it is not a valid reason, under FOIA, for not producing all the public records requested.
Written on: February 27th, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge School District Board of Education violated FOIA in connection with the hiring of Personnel for the 1996-1997 school year because the Superintendent attempted to obtain a consensus vote for the new hires rather than have a discussion an election at a Board meeting open to the public. HELD: The Assistant Superintendent’s phone calls to individual Board members amounted to a consensus vote on the recommendations and therefore constituted a violation of FOIA. No remedial action required since the subject matter of the consensus vote was properly noticed for the next meeting and was properly voted on at that time.
Written on: February 12th, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant requested an opinion as to whether a meeting between DelDot officials and “local elected officials,” scheduled with less than 7-days notice, would constitute a violation of FOIA. Held: No violation of FOIA if the City issues a notice at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting pursuant to the “special meetings” section of FOIA, and the notice indicates why an earlier notice was not possible. In this case, sufficient to state that an earlier notice was not possible because legal opinions had not been obtained from the City Solicitor and the Attorney General prior to the posting of the notice.
Written on: January 14th, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the Town of Laurel (i) violated the open records requirements of FOIA by not producing documents responsive to his records request; and (ii) violated the open meetings requirement of FOIA because it did not comply with the town’s subdivision regulations; and (iii) another meeting notice and agenda, posted at the Town’s Planning Commission office, violated FOIA because it did not provide the time and place of the meeting. Held: (i) A signed affidavit from the custodian of records stating that there are no responsive records to the request is sufficient for purposes of FOIA; (ii) The Town’s notice requirements are separate and distinct from FOIA; (iii) the Planning Commission meeting’s posted notice and agenda violated FOIA because it did not provide the time and place of the meeting and was posted with five days, rather than seven day’s notice. No remediation required because this was a technical rather than substantive violation.
Written on: December 11th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Requestor sought an opinion on whether the names and addresses of Delaware business license holders constitute public records under the Freedom of Information Act. Held: as a general rule, the names and addresses of the holders of business licenses are exempt from disclosure by a common law right of privacy. In certain situations, the balance between a private right of informational privacy may be outweighed by the public interest in disclosure, but only if disclosure will contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of government, as opposed to the commercial interest of the requestor. However, it is difficult to conceive of a situation in which the reason for requesting the names and addresses of business license holders would be for any purpose other than the commercial interest of the requestor.
Written on: October 17th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Requestor sought a review and modification of AG Opinion 96-IB02 in light of AG Opinion 96-IB26 regarding the Sussex County Council. Held: any questionable circumstance must be resolved in favor of the public’s right to know and have access to the meetings and records of public bodies and, therefore, there is no reason to modify the original order.
Written on: October 10th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that Woodbridge School District Board of Education violated the open meeting requirement of the Freedom of Information Act by discussing non-personnel matters during an executive session called for the purpose of discussing personnel matters. The Board argued that all matters discussed were permissible under FOIA. Held: the Board did not violate FOIA’s open meeting requirements because personnel matters were discussed and other there was no evidence of anything improper being discussed. Also, although engaging in consensus votes is typically impermissible, with respect to teacher transfers where board had no authority over or advisory power with respect to such transfers, there is no FOIA violation.
Written on: August 8th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Office failed to provide her with requested records. The Office stated that the records, although required under statute, do not exist. Held: whether the Office violated the statute is not within the jurisdiction of the Office of the Attorney General. The Freedom of Information Act does not require a public body to create a record where the requested record does not exist, nor does FOIA require a public body to compile the requested data from other public records that may exist.
Written on: August 1st, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge School District Board of Education improperly held an executive session during a regular public meeting, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The topic of discussion during the executive session was “personnel matters” involving the complainant, a member of the Board, and his interactions with District staff. Complainant alleged that the discussion went beyond personnel matters. Held: the executive session was convened in accordance with FOIA and the Board did not exceed statutory limits on executive sessions.
Written on: July 22nd, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
One requestor sought clarification as to whether AG Opinion 96-IB19 required the Town of Camden to re-notice and hold another public hearing in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Two other requestors sought reconsideration of that opinion. Held: the Office need not reconsider the facts of the earlier opinion, however will reconsider solely with respect to whether remediation in the form of de novo review was appropriate or necessary. Also, the Camden Town Council, as the elected representatives of the citizens of Camden, was in the best position to weigh the consequences to the local community in deciding whether to re-notice a public hearing on the re-zoning proposal.