Civil Division – New Castle County
Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 95-IB20 (Del.A.G.), 1995 WL 794552
(warning school district that 2 board members who planned to attend an informal, administrative meeting with the superintendent, while not a quorum of the 5-member board, may still constitute a quorum of a school board subcommittee if those 2 members expressly or impliedly make a recommendation to the full board)
June 15, 1995
Ms. Kathleen Morozowich
R.D. 2, Box 166
Bridgeville, DE 19933
Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint 29 Del. C. § 10005(e)
Dear Ms. Morozowich:
This is the decision by the Attorney General on the above-referenced complaint.
On April 21, 1995, you filed a complaint pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005(e), the Freedom of Information Act (the “Act”) with the Attorney General alleging, inter alia, that Woodbridge School District (the “District”) again met in closed “Breakfast Meeting Sessions” in February and March, 1995. We incorporate by reference herein the details of those allegations.
The Attorney General served your complaint on James D. Griffin, Esquire, counsel for the District on April 3, 1995.
After a short extension, Mr. Griffin filed the District’s response to the complaint on April 21, 1995.
Mr. Griffin represented that contrary to the allegations contained in your complaint, the District did not hold a public meeting in February or March, 1995. He stated that the District had previously discontinued the practice of holding such monthly breakfast meetings following the Attorney General’s written decision dated January 23, 1995 (Atty Gen. Op. No. 95-IB04, attached) holding such meetings were in violation of the Act. He stated, inter alia, that the two breakfast meetings held since his letter of February 24, 1995 were “administrative-staff meetings” called by the Superintendent. He stated that no more than two of the five Board Members attended the February and March, 1995 “administrative-staff meetings.” He stated that the meetings were held on February 28, 1995 and attended by Board Members Eddy Parker and Joanne Collision. The March meeting was held on March 28, 1995 and attended by Board Members Eddy Parker and Ruth Isaacs. He stated that any attendance by these Board Members was entirely voluntary.
The District also argued in its response that the Board Members who attended the breakfast administrative meetings “were not appointed or designated as an ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board committee or subcommittee” and have not thereafter, made an informal or formal, express or implied recommendation to the full Board. See 29 Del. C. § 10002(a). The District argued further that neither of the Board Members presided at either of the administrative-staff meetings. Mr. Griffin stated that no public notices were posted and no minutes were taken or executive session held because the meetings were administrative in nature. The District also stated there was no call to order by any Member of the Board.
The District asserted that this office should reject the conclusion of Ms. Morozowich that the Board, its counsel, and central administrative staff intend to continually disregard previous Opinions by the Attorney General. Mr. Griffin stated he believed the complaint has no merit in that no Board meeting occurred.
On May 1, 1995 the Attorney General forwarded a copy of the District’s April 21, 1995 response to Ms. Morozowich and requested her comments.
§ 10002. Definitions.
(a) “Public body” means, unless specifically excluded, any regulatory, administrative, advisory, executive, appointive or legislative body of the State, or of any political subdivision of the State, including, but not limited to, any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel, council or any other entity or body established by an act of the General Assembly of the State, or established by any body established by the General Assembly of the State, or appointed by any body or public official of the State or otherwise empowered by any state governmental entity, which: (1) Is supported in whole or in part by any public funds; or (2) expends or disburses any public funds, including grants, gifts or other similar disbursals and distributions; or (3) is impliedly or specifically charged by any other public official, body, or agency to advise or to make reports, investigations or recommendations. Public body shall not include the General Assembly of the State, nor any caucus thereof, or committee, subcommittee, ad hoc committee, special committee or temporary committee.
(e) “Meeting” means the formal or informal gathering of a quorum of the members of any public body for the purpose of discussing or taking action on public business.
Decision and Order
The sole issue presented by this complaint is whether the re-constituted “administrative staff meetings” by the District constitutes a public body within 29 Del. C. § 10002(a). Based upon this record, we conclude that such meetings were not public meetings within the Act. However, we caution the Board to comply carefully with the Act and specifically the notice provisions in § 10004(f) if a quorum of the Board is present. Although counsel for the Board was careful to set forth facts that the two Board Members in attendance were not appointed or designated as an ad hoc committee, special committee, advisory committee or subcommittee, the fact that Board Members were attending administrative-staff meetings could be interpreted as a subcommittee of public body falling within 29 Del. C. § 10002(a). This would be the case if any Board Members Parker and Collison subsequently made any formal or informal, express or implied recommendations to the full Board based upon any action proposed at the “administrative-staff meetings.” 24 Del. C. § 10002. Based upon the record here, however, we decline to make such a??? ruling for the the reasons enumerated above. We urge the District to review our January 23, 1995 Opinion detailing the parameters of the public meeting provisions of the Act so that future violations of the Act may be avoided. For the above reasons, however, we find no violation of the Act has occurred.Very truly yours,
John K. Welch
Deputy Attorney General
cc: Dr. Robert C. Sutton
Woodbridge School DistrictJames D. Griffin, Esquire
Michael J. Rich