Written on: May 10th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainants alleged twenty-one violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the Georgetown Town Council. Held: the Council violated the Act multiple times by failing to provide reasons why agendas were not posted in the required timeframe. The Council violated the Act by failing to timely post notices of meetings, failing to keep proper minutes and failing to post agendas. The Council violated the Act by failing to include reasons why certain agendas were not posted on time. However, when reasons were given, there are no requirements governing how specific the reasons must be. The Council also violated the Act by not listing certain items on the agenda which were put up for a vote during the meeting, including the hiring by “resolution” of special counsel to the Council. This office specifically finds that in order for a public body to ratify illegal acts, that the former illegal acts and/or action taken by the Town Council in previous public meetings and hearings, must be listed on the agenda and public notice for the meeting in order to provide notice to the public as to what items are being ratified in open session.
Written on: April 15th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge school board held closed meetings in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Complainant alleged that a quorum of school board members met before and after school board meetings and discussed public business. The school board argued that on two of the three alleged occasions, the school board members were simply talking, not about public business. Held: the board violated FOIA when a quorum discussed public business in the form of discussing the possibility of a Little League team renting out the gym. However, this violation was later cured when the full board met in public meeting, discussed the issue and voted. There was no evidence that public business was discussed during the other two instances, but board members should be cognizant of such discussions as they bear the burden of refuting violation claims.
Written on: March 20th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Georgetown Town Council motioned for reargument on A.G. Opinion 96-IB05 based on the decision of Kansas City Star Company v. Fulson, 859 S.W.2d 934 (1993). Held: motion is denied. Unlike the meetings in Kansas City Star Company, the Georgetown Town Council conducted public business when it held separate meetings to discuss and ratify the November, 1995 memorandum regarding personnel and other issues.
Written on: February 13th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Georgetown Town Council violated the Freedom of Information Act. Complainant alleged that the Council met daily in violation of FOIA and also submitted a memorandum for which there was no public record. The Council argued that there was no specificity as to their daily meetings and argued that the Memorandum was reviewed with separate council members but at no time was a quorum present warranting a public meeting that complied with the Act. Held: there was no evidence that the Council met daily in violation of the Act. However, the Memorandum was executed in violation of the Act. A public body may be subject to FOIA even if a quorum is not present, as was the case here where small groups met to discuss the memorandum. The fact that Council met in sub-groups to discuss, formulate and execute the November 27, 1995 memorandum suggests that the Council acted deliberately to circumvent the public notice, agenda and record keeping requirements of the Act.
Written on: January 2nd, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Mayor of Dewey Beach improperly refused to respond to a question from a Maryland resident during a public town meeting. The Maryland resident also filed a Freedom of Information request. The town of Dewey Beach responded to the request but also noted that it need not fulfill FOIA requests made by non-Delawareans. Held: Delaware’s FOIA is applicable only to “citizens of the State,” meaning citizens of the State of Delaware.
Written on: November 2nd, 1995 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the District failed to note on the meeting agenda that the agenda was subject to change or modification and, therefore, any modifications made to the agenda at the meeting were in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Held: FOIA expressly provides that posted agendas are subject to change and modification, the agendas do not need to contain such language, and any modification to the agenda was not a violation of FOIA. Next, the Complainant alleged that Board members impermissibly gathered in the Superintendent’s office prior to the meeting. Held: there is no evidence that the board members discussed public business, therefore there is no violation. Next, the Complainant alleged that the Board attempted to discuss pending litigation during executive session even though it was not on the agenda. Held: the pending litigation was not actually discussed so the point is moot. Next, the Complainant alleged that the Board did not give proper notice of its intent to conduct interviews for principal during executive session. In this case, the agenda stated “Personnel” matters were to be discussed during executive session. Held: “Personnel” does not give adequate notice of the interviewing of a candidate, which would fit better into the Section 10004(b)(1) reason for executive sessions, therefore there was not adequate notice of the Board’s intent to hold executive session to conduct interviews. Finally, the Complainant alleged that the meeting’s record did not encompass the executive session discussions. Held: those records were provided and the point is moot.
Written on: September 27th, 1995 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Civil Division – New Castle County September 27, 1995 Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 95-IB30 (Del.A.G.), 1995 WL 794497 (permitting the Director of the Division of Revenue, the state agency charged with administering and enforcing Delaware tax laws, to access Social Security numbers maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles) Michael O. McCann Deputy Administrator Department […]
Written on: August 15th, 1995 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that New Castle County failed to respond to her request for records. The County indicated that it was preparing to respond to the request when the Complainant filed a pro se suit in Superior Court alleging, among other things, a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Held: jurisdiction rests with Superior Court.
Written on: August 15th, 1995 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The Complainant alleged that the Town Council of Georgetown violated the Freedom of Information Act when it did not include the eviction of the town Chamber of Commerce from the town hall on the June agenda but did vote on the matter as additional business. A special meeting was held two months later to vote on the eviction again, in compliance with FOIA, with the same vote. Held: although there was an initial violation, the subsequent meeting ratified the actions of the first meeting and made the matter moot.
Requestor sought an opinion on whether the Governor’s Council on Equal Employment Opportunity was permitted to meet privately with invited guests. The Council was established by Executive Order and its members were appointed by the Governor or the Human Relations Commission. It is not statutorily exempted from the Freedom of Information Act and is supported, at least in part, by public funds. Held: the Council on Equal Employment Opportunity is a Public Body as defined by FOIA and must abide by the open meeting requirements therefore, private meetings with invited guests are not permitted. However, the Council is permitted to go into Executive Session as permitted by statute.