December 6, 2002
Civil Division-Kent County
Mr. Daniel J. Kramer
8041 Scotts Store Road
Greenwood, DE 19950
Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Sussex County Council
On October 1, 2002, our Office received your complaint under the Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. Chapter 100 ("FOIA"), alleging that the Sussex County Council ("the Council") violated FOIA by: (1) discussing matters of public business at a meeting on October 1, 2002 without proper notice to the public; and (2) charging an unreasonable fee ($10.00) for a copy of the County's comprehensive land use plan.
By letter dated October 7, 2002, we asked for the Council's response, which we received on October 28, 2002.
The agenda for the October 1, 2002 meeting (attached to your complaint) lists for public discussion "Introduction of Proposed Zoning Ordinances." The agenda was posted on September 24, 2002, seven days in advance of the meeting as required by FOIA. We believe that this agenda item sufficiently alerted the public that the Council would be discussing proposed changes to the comprehensive land use plan. According to the sign-in sheets provided by the County, at least 26 members of the public attended, including representatives of the Sierra Club who opposed many of the proposed changes. Because of the great public interest in these issues, the County has scheduled two additional public meetings to discuss proposed changes to the plan.
FOIA provides that "[a]ny reasonable expense involved in the copying of [public] records shall be levied on the citizen requesting such copy." 29 Del. C. § 10002(a). The comprehensive land use plan was available for free on the Internet, or for $10.00 at the County zoning office. (1) The plan is 68 pages, making the cost per page at the zoning office of less than seven cents. We believe that is a reasonable amount to charge for copying under FOIA. See Att'y Gen. Op. 94-IO13 (Mar. 15, 1994) (fifty cents per page reasonable). We are not aware of any county ordinance that requires the County to make available copies of public records for free. Even if there were, that issue would not be within our jurisdiction.
Very truly yours,
Malcolm S. Cobin, Esquire
cc: The Honorable M. Jane Brady
Dennis L. Schrader, Esquire
Phillip G. Johnson, Opinion Coordinator
1. In Att'y Gen. Op. 02-IB23 (Oct. 1, 2002), we determined that the plan was available to the public in these two formats reasonably in advance of the October 1, 2002 meeting of the Council.