Written on: February 20th, 1998 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
The City of Newark requested the DOJ to reconsider its opinion, dated Jan. 21, 1998 (98-IB01) when it found that the Newark Board of Ethics violated FOIA because it discussed public business in executive session for reasons not authorized by FOIA. HELD: Opinion modified; The deliberations and vote taken by the Board of Ethics did violate FOIA. The Board is required to deliberate on the matter in a public session based on the verbatim transcript created at the January meeting, but Board will not be required to engage in a full evidentiary hearing merely to take evidence or introduce documents already of record.
Written on: January 30th, 1998 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the Town of Middletown violated FOIA by (i) failing to give notice to the public of meetings to discuss the development and eventual adoption of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, even though those meetings did not involve a quorum of the council and involved the Mayor, members of the Institute staff, and the Town’s Planning Commission, and (ii) did not hold a public meeting to review comments on the Draft Comprehensive Plan from the Cabinet Committee on State Planning Issues. HELD: (i) failure to provide public notice of “workshops” to discuss Comprehensive plan violated FOIA because public business was discussed at those meetings and the groups involved constituted an “ad hoc” committee for purposes of FOIA; (ii) failure to post agendas with other meeting notices violated FOIA because public was not put on notice that their input was being sought regarding the proposed Comprehensive Plan; and (iii) to the extent complaint alleges violation of the Land Use Planning Act, that is outside the jurisdiction of the Office.
Written on: January 21st, 1998 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the City of Newark violated FOIA because it did not provide her with a transcript of an executive session held by the City and did not go into executive session for a purpose authorized by statute. HELD: FOIA does not require a public body to tape record its meetings or executive sessions, or have a stenographer present to transcribe the proceedings. However, the City did discuss items in executive session for reasons not authorized by the statute. Therefore, the City directed to hold a new hearing in order to deliberate in public as required by FOIA.
Written on: December 23rd, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged the Woodbridge School District violated FOIA by (i) maintaining vague and non-specific meeting minutes and that the meetings should be tape recorded; (ii) the school districted noticed an emergency meeting to discuss the assistant superintendent’s contract but in fact discussed other issues; and (iii) the district improperly met in executive session to discuss personnel matters, but actually discussed matters not authorized for executive session. HELD: (i) Complaints lodged more than six months after the action by the public body that is the subject of the complaint will not be considered; (ii) FOIA does not require a public body to tape record its meetings or executive sessions; and (iii) meeting minutes need only include a record of those members present and a record by individual members of each vote taken an action agreed upon. FOIA does not require a detailed summary of discussions.
Written on: November 24th, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the City of Wilmington violated FOIA’s open meeting requirements by holding meetings of the Residency Review Board without notice to the public and by failing to maintain minutes of those meetings. The City did not dispute the allegation that it failed to provide notice of the meetings, but did provide copies of the minutes of those meetings. HELD: FOIA’s notice requirements apply to all meetings of public bodies regardless of whether formal action is taken by the body at the meeting. To remedy this violation, the Residency Review Board directed to notice a special meeting within thirty days of the date of the decision in order to discuss the principal matters discussed at its earlier meetings.
Written on: October 20th, 1997 in 10002(a) Agenda
Complainant alleged that the Cape Henlopen School District violated FOIA by holding a meeting without providing proper notice to the public, or disclosing on the agenda that the district might vote to spend public monies for new locally funded teaching positions. The District argued that the issue arose at the meeting, so could not be disclosed in advance. HELD: The District did not violate FOIA’s notice requirements. The meeting was attended by a number of parents and teachers, including the complainant, the public was not misled by the agenda posted, and the conversation evolved into a substantive discussion that arose during the course of the meeting consistent with FOIA.
Written on: October 20th, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the Milford City Council violated FOIA’s open meeting requirements because the agendas for those meetings did not indicate that the Council might go into executive session, and that the Council entered executive session for purposes not authorized by FOIA. The Council admitted that the executive sessions were not held in full compliance with FOIA. HELD: The Council did not post notice of its intention to go into Executive session, the reasons for the session, nor were minutes of the session maintained. Because of these actions, any action taken by the Council by those meetings deemed voidable. Council directed to re-notice the mattes that were the subject of discussion at those two meetings for another meeting open to the public.
Written on: September 2nd, 1997 in 10001 Declaration of Policy
Complainant alleged that the Town of Bridgeville violated FOIA’s open meetings requirements because it did not post a notice of a meeting at least 7 days prior to the meeting. Town replied that under the circumstances, only 24 hours notice was required. HELD: FOIA permits emergency meetings only when necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety. An employment dispute between a police officer and the Town does not rise to the level of an emergency necessary to obviate the notice requirements of FOIA. Thus, Town violated FOIA by failing to explain in the notice why seven days’ notice could not be given. No remedial action necessary though with respect to the personnel matters. The Town met to decide whether to ask the AG’s office to investigate the employee’s complaint and the AG’s office had already decided not to conduct the requested investigation. The meeting must be renoticed to allow the public to observe the Town’s discussion of all other public business.
Written on: August 28th, 1997 in 10002(a) Agenda
Complainant alleged that the Council of the City of New Castle violated FOIA’s open meeting requirements by holding a meeting of the Public Safety Review Committee without providing adequate notice to the public. HELD: The committee violated FOIA’s open meetings laws when it (i) failed to provide 7 days notice of its meetings; and (ii) the notices posted failed to include meeting agendas. No remediation required, however, since these were technical violations of FOIA.
Written on: August 22nd, 1997 in 10002(h) Public Body
Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 97-IB15 (Del.A.G.), 1997 WL 606474 Office of the Attorney General State of Delaware Opinion No. 97–IB15 August 22, 1997 RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Caesar Rodney School District *1 Mr. David Burke 66 West Fairfield Drive Dover, DE 19910 Dear Mr. Burke: By letter dated June 30, 1997 (received […]