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Attorney General's Opinions



  Category: 10002(l) (3) Exemptions – Investigatory Files

Attorney General Matt Denn


          

15-IB13 12/29/2015 FOIA Opinion Letter to Ms. Melissa Steele re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Delaware Division of Forensic Science

Written on: December 29th, 2015 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files

Petitioner alleged that the Delaware Division of Forensic Science violated FOIA by not providing a decedent’s manner of death. Held: The Medical Examiner’s investigation and determination are part of DDFS’ investigative files and are not public records for purposes of FOIA.


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14-IB04 07/18/14 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Myers re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Department of Technology and Information

Written on: July 18th, 2014 in 10001 Declaration of Policy10002(l) (1) Exemptions - Personnel10002(l) (2) Exemptions - Trade Secrets10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files10002(l) (4) Exemptions - Criminal Files and Criminal Records10002(l) (6) Exemptions - Records Exempted Per Statute or Common Law10002(l) (9) Exemptions - Pending or Potential Litigation

The Complainant alleged the Department of Technology and Information (“DTI”) improperly withheld information regarding assessments for the Delaware Broadband Fund (the “Fund”). DTI withheld the assessments of three carriers at their request because the carriers alleged the assessments constituted “trade secrets” or “commercial financial information” that would constitute a threat to their respective competitive positions. Held: information withheld should have been produced. There was no apparent threat of competitive harm, given the voluntary release of assessment information to the Complainant by dozens of competitors.


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09-IB06 RE: Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) Complaint Against Townsend, Delaware

Written on: June 9th, 2009 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files

Complainant asserts that Townsend violated FOIA’s open records requirements by not providing a copy of complaint asserted against her family and because the Mayor had promised her a copy. Townsend asserts that the complaint is exempt from FOIA because it is part of an investigatory file. HELD: Townsend did not violate FOIA by not providing the complaint. Townsend has a public interest in preserving confidentiality of law enforcement files to avoid a chilling effect on those who might bring pertinent information to the attention of law enforcement. Doctrine of estoppel does not apply because even if the Mayor did promise a copy of the letter, Complainant did not rely on that promise to his detriment.


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05-IB16 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against City of Rehoboth Beach

Written on: June 22nd, 2005 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files

Complainant alleged the City violated the FOIA public records requirements by denying access to copies of post-mortem records that were provided to the City’s police department by the Department of Health and Social Services and/or state medical examiner’s office. Held: the City did not violate FOIA because the Lawson post-mortem reports (with the exception of the death certificate, which may be exempt from disclosure by separate statute) were exempt from disclosure under FOIA as part of an investigative file compiled for law enforcement purposes. Further, FOIA requests should be made to the public body who originated the documents; thus, the City should immediately refer the FOIA request to the originating agency—the office of the Chief Medical Examiner.


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04-IB20 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against New Castle County

Written on: November 16th, 2004 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files10002(l) (6) Exemptions - Records Exempted Per Statute or Common Law10002(l) (9) Exemptions - Pending or Potential Litigation

Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 04-IB20 (Del.A.G.), 2004 WL 2951950 Office of the Attorney General State of Delaware Opinion No. 04-IB20 November 16, 2004 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against New Castle County *1 Ms. Mary Allen The News Journal 950 W. Basin Road P.O. Box 15505 Wilmington, DE 19850 Dear Ms. Allen: Our Office […]


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01-IB04 RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaints Against New Castle County and the City of New Castle

Written on: February 27th, 2001 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files

The Complainant alleged that New Castle County and the City of New Castle violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by failing to provide it with copies of the first page of all uniform collision reports for specified time periods. Held: Because the party requesting the information was a non-profit association wholly owned by a Nevada company, it was not a citizen of Delaware and was therefore not entitled to invoke Delaware’s FOIA. In any event, and relying on case law from the Delaware Superior Court, the opinion holds that the requested documents fell within the “investigatory files” exception to FOIA’s definition of public records. No violation of FOIA had occurred.


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99-IB14 RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Town of Elsmere

Written on: November 5th, 1999 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files

The Complainant alleged that the Town of Elsmere had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by refusing to permit him to review documents in a police complaint file regarding an unregistered motor vehicle parked in Complainant’s driveway. The Town argued that the “investigative file” exception to FOIA exempted the documents from disclosure. Held: Relying on case law in the Court of Chancery, the opinion held that the “investigative file” exception to FOIA applies even after a file is closed, and especially with respect to cases where no criminal charges are filed. The records requested were therefore not “public records” within the meaning of FOIA, and no violation occurred.


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98-IB13: RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Town of Laurel

Written on: December 8th, 1998 in 10002(l) (3) Exemptions - Investigatory Files

Complainant alleged that the Town of Laurel violated FOIA by denying him access to copies of notices set out by the Code Enforcement Officer from April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1998 regarding violations of the Housing Code. Town responded that these were exempted from disclosure under the investigative file exemption and the common law right of privacy. HELD: Investigative file exemption applies even after the file has been closed, and the exemption applies to administrative agencies, not just criminal law enforcement agencies. The notices requested were not public records for purposes of FOIA.


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