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: May 6th, 1996 in 10002(l) (1) Exemptions - Personnel
The Complainant alleged that multiple municipalities improperly withheld the names and salaries of municipality employees. The municipalities argued that releasing such information would be a violation of personal privacy, and that to release the information would require retrieving the information from tax forms which are exempt from disclosure. Held: salaries and names must be disclosed. If they are contained in documents which are exempted from disclosure, the information should be taken from those documents and provided in a releasable format. How the municipalities would like to release the information to the Complainant is up to the municipalities.
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 10002(g) Meeting
The Complainant requested an investigation into three meetings the Newark City Council held with the University of Delaware. These meetings were not open to the public and no record was kept. Newark City Council argued that no quorum was present at any of the meetings and, therefore, the meetings were not those of a public body. Held: ad hoc committees are considered public bodies and the breakdown of council members into three groups is the formation of ad hoc committees. The formation of three ad hoc committees to meet with the same university staff to discuss essentially the same topics was a scheme to avoid compliance with FOIA.
Written on: January 2nd, 1996 in 10002(h) Public Body
The Requestor sought information from the Delaware Supreme Court and Municipal Court of Wilmington regarding a 1995 vacancy. The original request was to the Governor and was denied. However, the request did reference the Courts and was, therefore, addressed by the Attorney General’s office. Held: the Courts are not public bodies created by the General Assembly under the Freedom of Information Act and any deliberations are specifically excluded from FOIA. Additionally, the request is denied because the judiciary has no input in the filling of judicial vacancies which are filled by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
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: October 24th, 1995 in 10002(l) (1) Exemptions - Personnel
The Complainant alleged that the school district impermissibly withheld documents regarding the status of a teacher and what was being done to address problems with that teacher. The District replied that they had provided all the public documents they had, had conducted meetings regarding the teacher and had no more information to provide. Held: the District has fulfilled its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and there is no violation.