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.
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.
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.
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.
Written on: July 6th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Petitioner alleged that the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers violated FOIA by not providing a record that included the requested email addresses and by not providing the record in the format requested by Petitioner. HELD: There was no FOIA violation. Under the specific circumstances of this case, the email addresses of private citizens are not considered to be public records. Further, FOIA does not require a public body to create a new record in response to FOIA requests, which would have been required to provide the requested format.
Written on: June 19th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Petitioner alleged that the Wilmington City Council’s Leadership Team was meeting privately in violation of FOIA. HELD: The Team, as currently constituted, is a “public body” which is subject to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. Therefore, private meetings are held to have violated FOIA. This office recommends that if the current form of the Team is continued, future meetings should comply with FOIA’s open meetings requirements and minutes of all prior meetings should be made available for inspection and copying.
Written on: June 16th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Petitioner alleged that the State Lottery Office improperly denied his request for information. HELD: There was no FOIA violation because the information requested would require the creation of a new record, which is not required by FOIA.
Written on: June 15th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Petitioner alleged that Sussex County Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission of Sussex County held focus groups without appropriate notice to the public or otherwise not compliant with FOIA’s open meetings provisions. HELD: There was no FOIA violation. The focus groups were not meetings of the public bodies against which the complaint was brought, as they did not include a quorum of either body. The private contractor operating the focus groups is a private entity and the focus groups themselves were formed by the private entity for single meetings to give input rather than an ongoing operation to make recommendations or reports or to conduct investigations. Thus the contractor and focus groups are not public bodies subject to FOIA.
Written on: April 25th, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Petitioner alleged that members of the Buzz Ware Village Center Committee violated FOIA by not publicly making the decision to deny her request for use of space. HELD: The Buzz Ware Village Center Committee is a public body. The record of email contact among a quorum of the Committee’s board members regarding the request and their decision establishes a serial meeting which was held without notice to the public, thus violating FOIA. Because the decision was ultimately reversed, this office does not recommend remediation, but does recommend that the Committee become more familiar with FOIA and pursue FOIA training.
Written on: April 3rd, 2017 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Petitioner alleged that the Red Clay Consolidated School Board must have held a nonpublic meeting based on the Board President’s statement to a parent that the majority of the Board agreed with a decision of the principal of A.I. DuPont High School to cancel the remainder of the boys basketball season. HELD: Sworn affidavits demonstrate that the principal provided this information to the Board President, but no evidence was found of a quorum or constructive quorum of the Board meeting to discuss the matter. While no FOIA violation was found, the Board is nonetheless cautioned to avoid any representation that it discussed or decided public business if it had not.