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Attorney General Kathy Jennings

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99-IB05: FOIA Complaint Against Town of Bethany Beach

Written on: May 12th, 1999 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

May 12, 1999

Civil Division-Kent County (739-7641)
Ms. Amy Garrison

510 Candlelight Lane

Bethany Beach, DE 19930

Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Town of Bethany Beach
Dear Ms. Garrison:

By letter dated April 22, 1999 (received by this Office on April 26, 1999), you complained

that the Town of Bethany Beach (“the Town”) had violated the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. Sections 10001-10005 (“FOIA”), by failing to give notice that it would discuss the hiring of a new police officer at its March 19, 1999 meeting.

We asked the Town to respond to your complaint, and received their letter dated May 6, 1999.

Listed in the notice and agenda for the March 19, 1999 meeting was “Executive Session to discuss personnel matters relating to names, competency and abilities of individual employees.” The minutes of the executive session, which we have reviewed confidentially, show that the Council discussed an applicant’s qualifications for a police officer position, which became after the Council decided to hire Mr. Hudson as the new Town Manager. The Council was authorized by law to go into executive session to discuss this matter. As we explained in our letter to you of April 28, 1999, FOIA does not require an agenda to identify the personnel in convening an executive session to consider personnel matters.

You raise a number of other legal issues in your letter: (1) did the Town violate municipal law because the Town Manager did not advertise for the new police position and then make a recommendation to the Council?; (2) did the Council violate municipal law in calling a special meeting in March 1999?; (3) did the Town engage in “favoritism” in hiring the new police officer? As we explained to you in our letter dated April 28, 1999, our review is limited solely to issues enumerated in the Freedom of Information Act. Municipal law and political issues which may result from the acts or omissions of a public body are beyond our jurisdiction and we must respectfully suggest that you consult private legal counsel on how to best address those concerns.
For the foregoing reasons, we determine that the Town did not violate the notice requirements of FOIA in connection with the meeting on March 19, 1999.

Very truly yours,

W. Michael Tupman

Deputy Attorney General

Michael J. Rich

State Solicitor
cc: M. Jane Brady

Attorney General
John Terence Jaywork, Esquire

Town Solicitor
Philip G. Johnson

Opinion Coordinator