Written on: December 17th, 2015 in 10001 Declaration of Policy, 10002(a) Agenda, 10004(e)(2) Notice Requirements for Regular Meetings
Petitioner alleged two public records and two open meetings violations by the Department of Education (DOE). Held: As long as a public body searches internal records first, it does not violate FOIA for a public body to request that the Department of Technology and Information perform a second search for email records. But when the body has already found no responsive records in its own search, it should so advise the petitioner. Further held: There is no evidence that the State Board of Education withheld information it would have shared with the public in the petitioner’s absence. Further held: The September 17 and September 23 Academic Framework Working Group meeting notices and agendas did not comply with FOIA because they were posted less than seven days in advance of the meetings.
Written on: December 1st, 2015 in 10002(a) Agenda, 10002(l) (1) Exemptions - Personnel, 10004(b)(1) Executive Session Job Qualifications, 10004(b)(9) Executive Session Personnel Matters, 10004(c) Requirements to Meet in Executive Session
The petitioner alleged that the Christina School District (“CSB”) violated FOIA by discussing the superintendent’s competency and abilities in executive session; by holding a vote in executive session; and by not making public a copy of the superintendent contract more than 6 hours before meeting to vote on it. Held: The CSB did not violate FOIA when it discussed the district superintendent’s competency and abilities in executive session at the August 2015 board meeting. The CSB did violate FOIA when it held a vote in executive session at the August meeting. However, we find that the executive session vote did not affect substantial public rights because no law requires executive sessions to be audio recorded. Therefore, no remediation is required. Finally, we conclude that the CSB did not violate FOIA’s meeting notice requirements when it circulated a copy of the superintendent’s contract less than six hours prior to the September 2015 board meeting.
The petitioner requested a determination of whether the Cape Henlopen Senior Center (“CHSC”) is a “public body” subject to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). Held: CHSC is not a public body because it is not a “regulatory, administrative, advisory, executive, appointive or legislative body of the State, or of any political subdivision of the State” and it was not established by governmental act or entity as described in FOIA. The mere fact that CHSC receives a large portion of its funding from the State and Sussex County is not sufficient to subject it to FOIA because it does fall within the first statutory requirement.
The Complainant alleged the Sussex County Council (the “Council”) violated the “open meetings” provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by providing insufficient specificity in agenda items and by adding agenda items during its meetings. Held: if available, agendas must be posted with the meeting notice. If the agenda is amended or delayed, the public body must provide the reason for the delay.
Written on: March 26th, 2013 in 10001 Declaration of Policy, 10002(a) Agenda, 10004(b)(1) Executive Session Job Qualifications, 10004(b)(4) Executive Session Collective Bargaining/Litigation, 10004(b)(9) Executive Session Personnel Matters, 10004(e)(2) Notice Requirements for Regular Meetings, Amending Agendas
The Complainant alleged the Board of Education for the Woodbridge School District 9the “Board”) violated the “open meetings” provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). Held: the Board’s agenda was insufficient to alert the public that it would accept the resignation of the existing superintendent and hire a replacement superintendent. It therefore violated the “open meetings” requirements of FOIA.
Written on: April 10th, 2012 in 10002(a) Agenda
Various people alleged that they did not receive proper notice of Rehoboth Beach Board of Adjustment meetings and that the Board violated various procedural requirements. Held that the meeting agenda was sufficient when it listed the general topic (an appeal of a building inspector decision), without specifying that the Board would consider whether the appeal was time-barred, because the issue was the appeal and whether it was time-barred was a within the scope of the appeal itself. The Board allowed argument by counsel to appellants, as well as counsel to the property owners and Rehoboth Beach, thus meeting any standards of fairness required under FOIA and the U.S. Constitution. The alleged procedural violations should be appealed to Superior Court, as they are not alleged violations of FOIA appealable to the AG.
Written on: March 27th, 2012 in 10002(a) Agenda
Petitioner alleged that the Caesar Rodney School District violated FOIA by (a) posting only tentative agendas; (b) failing to inform the public that it was planning to increase personnel salaries during the December 2011 meeting; (c) failing to include specific grounds for executive sessions in the agendas; and (d) failing to provide adequate Board minutes. Held that (a) the District violated FOIA by posting tentative agendas, but that the District agreed not to label future agendas as “tentative”; (b) because the salaries in question were set through contracts previously agreed to by the District, notice of such salary increases was not necessary; (c) failing to specify the purpose of executive sessions violated FOIA, but the District agreed to include specific grounds for executive sessions in the future; and (d) the minutes were adequate so the District did not violate FOIA as to the minutes.
Written on: January 6th, 2012 in 10002(a) Agenda
Petitioner alleged that the Capital School District violated FOIA by (1) failing to identify in the August 2011 agenda the subject matter of a proposed executive session, (2) failing to open its public meeting in the auditorium before going into executive session in the library, (3) failing to give proper notice of the addition of administrator salaries to the agenda for the August 2011 meeting, and (4) failure of the August 2011 minutes to include the discussion of and vote on raising the administrators’ salaries. Held that the District violated FOIA by (1) not including the subject matter of the proposed executive sessions, (2) failing to properly give notice of the location of its September 2011 meeting, and (3) voting on the salary increase for District administrators without having given proper notice of intent on the August 2011 agenda. Held that the District did not violate FOIA as to the minutes of the August 24 meeting, because such minutes properly disclosed the attendees and the vote of each for each vote taken and action agreed upon. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no remedy sought for past meetings, but District required to properly notice all future meetings.
Petitioner alleged that members of the Woodbridge School Board violated FOIA when three Board members attended a “Meet the Candidates” night and later when three Board members attended a Bond Committee hearing in Dover. Petitioner further alleged a FOIA violation when the Board voted on hiring a new superintendant on June 14, when the agenda did not include this action on the posted agenda. Held that the Board did not violate FOIA when three members attended other events because they did not discuss public business and did not meet “for the purpose” of discussing public business of the Board. The June 14 vote was a technical violation, but took place simply because the May meeting, for which the vote was on the agenda, ran late and all members of the public left before the vote occurred. Because the June vote was intended to ratify a prior, properly-noticed vote, no remediation was required.
Requester alleged that the Town of Dewey Beach had committed approximately 35 violations of FOIA. As to the allegations, held that the Town did not violate FOIA because (a) FOIA requires only that agenda include a general statement of major issues expected to be discussed, so agenda items were sufficient; (b) Town may remove an agenda item without any stated reason; (c) minutes are complete if they include the names of those present and a record of votes taken and action agreed upon, and the Town’s minutes met these requirements; (d) a meeting of a sub-quorum with townspeople was not subject to FOIA; and (e) a special meeting was properly noticed because no explanation was required. The Town committed a technical violation of FOIA because its minutes were not all timely prepared by the next meeting. However, there was no intentional failure to prepare the minutes, and the minutes had been provided, so no remediation was necessary.