Written on: January 16th, 2001 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Indian River School District violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by going into executive session for a purpose not authorized by law. Held: While most of the issues discussed during executive session were well within the categories of subjects appropriate for executive session discussion under FOIA, the inclusion of “Boardsmanship” – more specifically, a request by the Board President that one of the other members of the board resign – on the agenda for the executive session was inappropriate. The matter was brought up at the public meeting after executive session ended, however, so the board was not required to reconvene and hold its discussion in public. The district was ordered to cease and desist its practice of discussing similar issues in executive session, as “[s]uch issues go to the very heart of the open meeting law: to allow the public the opportunity to be involved in debates among elected officials on matters of public interest.”
Written on: November 8th, 2000 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge School District violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by failing to provide him with access to public records. Held: While the district’s response was not as “timely as it should have been,” given the fact that, among other things, the custodian of certain of the information was on vacation and other information had to be compiled and prepared to respond to the request, the delay did not result in a violation of FOIA. The Complainant having received (or the district having agreed to make available) all information that he had requested, there was no FOIA violation.
Written on: April 28th, 2000 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainants alleged that the Woodbridge School District had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in a number of ways while considering how to respond to a failed referendum. Held: (1) A three-member committee of the district’s school board was a “public body” within the meaning of FOIA and it violated FOIA by failing to provide adequate notice of its intention to meet and the subject of its planned meeting, and the district’s defense that it was not required to give notice because no “formal action” was taken at the meeting was rejected; (2) the district’s last-minute change to an agenda for a meeting on March 21, 2000 to include consideration of a potential second referendum violated the seven-day notice requirements of FOIA and did not arise during the course of the meeting; (3) even though no complaint was filed, the Attorney General concluded that a separate FOIA violation occurred in connection with the agenda for a later, April 17, 2000 meeting of the district board; and (4) the district’s response to the complaint, which included the setting of a new meeting to consider the relevant issues and providing adequate notice, complied with the requirements of FOIA. Given the newly-scheduled and adequately-noticed upcoming special meeting, no additional remedies were deemed required at that time.
Written on: February 18th, 2000 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Red Clay Consolidated School District had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) at a meeting in November 1998, and again by failing to provide executive session minutes for a December 16, 1998 executive session. The district responded by arguing that the complaint was time-barred and, in any event, it had provided the Complainant with a copy of the executive session minutes in question. Held: The request for executive session meeting minutes was moot. As for the complaint about the November 1998 meeting, FOIA requires a citizen to complain about a violation of its terms within 60 days of it learning of such action, and in no event later than 6 months after the action. In light of the fact that more than six months had passed since the meeting in question, no further action was taken on the complaint.
Written on: February 2nd, 2000 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Brandywine School District had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by (i) charging him for access to public records; and (ii) failing to provide him with communications from the Delaware Department of Justice office to the district pertaining to an audit investigation of the district being performed by the Delaware Department of Justice. The district responded by agreeing not to charge the Complainant for the response, and by claiming that any communications responsive to his request were not in its custody. Held: The district may have violated FOIA by charging for access to public records when it did not have a formal policy in place requiring it to do so. Any such violation was remedied by the district’s agreement not to charge the access fee. As for the communications requested, the district was not the custodian of the records that were being sought, and it was therefore under no obligation under FOIA to produce the documents in question.
Written on: January 10th, 2000 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Town of Bellefonte had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by not providing him with access to “all the town records past and current” at a time that was convenient to the Complainant. The town responded that it had arranged for all of the records in its possession to be available for inspection (with a photocopier available on location) at an open meeting, and that it had separately proposed thirty different hours in January 1998 when the Complainant could come in and review the available records. Held: The town’s response was reasonable and not a violation of FOIA. The town had made the records in its possession available on a number of occasions and at varying times. The town should not be “liable for [Complainant’s] failure or refusal to avail [himself] of any of those times.”
Written on: December 22nd, 1999 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Town of Townsend violated the Freedom of Information Act in reviewing and approving a measure to mandate trash collection. Held: Upon review of the notice and agenda, the town complied with the notice requirements of FOIA in discussing and, ultimately, approving a set of mandatory trash collection procedures. No FOIA violation had occurred.
Written on: December 17th, 1999 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Delaware Department of Transportation and the City of Wilmington had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). Held: FOIA does not permit the Attorney General to adjudicate any FOIA dispute between a citizen and a department that the Attorney General is obliged to represent, such as the Delaware Department of Transportation. In any event, the Complainant had not identified any meetings that were held in violation of FOIA or public records that were not provided to him upon request. Instead, the complaint focused on allegations of other statutory violations by the City of Wilmington, which were beyond the scope of the Attorney General’s FOIA jurisdiction. No relief was therefore warranted.
Written on: September 21st, 1999 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Brandywine School District had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by failing to provide him with the names of the District Advisory Committee and such committee’s report and recommendations. The district responded that no such committee had been created, and it could not provide documents that did not exist. Held: Neither federal nor Delaware law requires a state agency to create a document that does not exist in order to satisfy a FOIA request. There was therefore no FOIA violation.
Written on: June 25th, 1999 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the City of Newark had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) at its March 22, 1999 City Council meeting by changing its agenda at the start of that meeting to include a $675,000 increase to the 1999 city budget so that the city could consummate a purchase of real property it had contracted to buy in a March 10, 1999 agreement. Held: Because the agreement had been entered into 12 days before the meeting in question, the City’s defense that it could amend its agenda to reflect issues that “arise at the time of the public body’s meeting” under FOIA was insufficient. The City was directed to place the budget amendment on the agenda of the next regularly scheduled meeting or at a special meeting held with adequate notice and opportunity for the public to be heard.