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Attorney General Matt Denn


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10001-declarations

96-IB02A: FOIA Complaint

Written on: October 17th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Requestor sought a review and modification of AG Opinion 96-IB02 in light of AG Opinion 96-IB26 regarding the Sussex County Council. Held: any questionable circumstance must be resolved in favor of the public’s right to know and have access to the meetings and records of public bodies and, therefore, there is no reason to modify the original order.


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10001-declarations

96-IB32 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint dated May 17, 1996 Woodbridge School District

Written on: October 10th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Complainant alleged that Woodbridge School District Board of Education violated the open meeting requirement of the Freedom of Information Act by discussing non-personnel matters during an executive session called for the purpose of discussing personnel matters. The Board argued that all matters discussed were permissible under FOIA. Held: the Board did not violate FOIA’s open meeting requirements because personnel matters were discussed and other there was no evidence of anything improper being discussed. Also, although engaging in consensus votes is typically impermissible, with respect to teacher transfers where board had no authority over or advisory power with respect to such transfers, there is no FOIA violation.


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10002l-epersonnel

96-IB30: Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint dated May 30, 1996 Woodbridge School District

Written on: September 25th, 1996 in 10002(l) (1) Exemptions - Personnel10002(l) (2) Exemptions - Trade Secrets

The Complainant alleged that Woodbridge School District Board of Education violated the open meeting requirement of the Freedom of Information Act by holding an executive session for the purpose of discussing applications for a scholarship. The Board argued that because review of the applications required discussion of financial eligibility and review of tax return documents and pupil files which are protected under FOIA, the applications could not be reviewed in open meeting. Held: because the review of applications involved review of documents which are protected under the FOIA, there was no violation of the open meeting requirement.


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10001-declarations

96-IB28 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint against Sussex County Planning and Zoning Office

Written on: August 8th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Complainant alleged that the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Office failed to provide her with requested records. The Office stated that the records, although required under statute, do not exist. Held: whether the Office violated the statute is not within the jurisdiction of the Office of the Attorney General. The Freedom of Information Act does not require a public body to create a record where the requested record does not exist, nor does FOIA require a public body to compile the requested data from other public records that may exist.


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10001-declarations

96-IB27: FOIA-Woodbridge Board of Education

Written on: August 1st, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge School District Board of Education improperly held an executive session during a regular public meeting, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The topic of discussion during the executive session was “personnel matters” involving the complainant, a member of the Board, and his interactions with District staff. Complainant alleged that the discussion went beyond personnel matters. Held: the executive session was convened in accordance with FOIA and the Board did not exceed statutory limits on executive sessions.


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10002g-meeting

96-IB26: Re: Freedom of Information Complaint Sussex County Council

Written on: July 25th, 1996 in 10002(g) Meeting10002(h) Public Body

The Complainant alleged that a number of Sussex County Council members visited a manufactured housing facility in Pennsylvania, possibly in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The Complainant alleged that a quorum of County Council members toured the facility. The Council stated that attendance was voluntary and a quorum was not present. Held: the group touring the facility was not a public body because they were not appointed as a committee by the Council, attendance was voluntary and there was no indication that any report or recommendation was made to the Council by the members who attended.


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10001-declarations

96-IB25: FOIA-Town of Camden/Camden Town Council-Public Hearing of December 5, 1995

Written on: July 22nd, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

One requestor sought clarification as to whether AG Opinion 96-IB19 required the Town of Camden to re-notice and hold another public hearing in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Two other requestors sought reconsideration of that opinion. Held: the Office need not reconsider the facts of the earlier opinion, however will reconsider solely with respect to whether remediation in the form of de novo review was appropriate or necessary. Also, the Camden Town Council, as the elected representatives of the citizens of Camden, was in the best position to weigh the consequences to the local community in deciding whether to re-notice a public hearing on the re-zoning proposal.


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10001-declarations

96-IB24: FOIA-Sussex County Council; Board of Adjustments & Planning and Zoning Office

Written on: July 9th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Complainant alleged that the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Office, Board of Adjustment violated the Freedom of Information Act when it permitted an individual to install fuel storage tanks without a public meeting. The Complainant alleged that the Director of Planning and Zoning exceeded his authority by waiving a previously set condition. Held: the Office does not have jurisdiction to determine whether the Director exceeded his authority. There is no evidence that any decision was made concerning the fuel storage tanks and evidence points to the contrary, that no waiver was made.


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10001-declarations

96-IB24: FOIA-Sussex County Council; Board of Adjustments & Planning and Zoning Office

Written on: July 9th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Complainant alleged that the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Office, Board of Adjustment violated the Freedom of Information Act when it permitted an individual to install fuel storage tanks without a public meeting. The Complainant alleged that the Director of Planning and Zoning exceeded his authority by waiving a previously set condition. Held: the Office does not have jurisdiction to determine whether the Director exceeded his authority. There is no evidence that any decision was made concerning the fuel storage tanks and evidence points to the contrary, that no waiver was made.


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10001-declarations

96-IB23: FOIA-Sussex County Council; Planning and Zoning Board and Board of Adjustments

Written on: June 20th, 1996 in 10001 Declaration of Policy

The Complainant alleged that the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Board violated the Freedom of Information Act by holding meetings in rooms that were too small and by noting that it would “take matters under advisement.” Held: the public bodies did not violate the Act by “taking matters under advisement” and holding meetings in places allegedly too small to allow for participation and observation by the public. The public body should clearly announce the time and place of the deliberation and vote, should advise the public that the session is open, and should announce that if the public elects not to attend the vote, that they can call the office in the morning during business hours for the decision. The procedure, although not specifically mandated by the Act, certainly complies with the spirit of §10001. When the meeting place may not be large enough to accommodate all the people who may wish to attend, the governmental unit must balance the public right of access against the burdens that providing additional public access would impose on the governmental unit.


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