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Delaware Department of Justice
Attorney General
Kathy Jennings

 Archived Posts From:  April 2006

06-IB09: RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Town of Townsend

Complainant alleged that the Town of Townsend violated FOIA when it (i) posted notices of the Town Council’s meetings at the Town Hall instead of the meeting location; (ii) failed to give the public adequate notice of a dangerous building ordinance adopted by the Town at a workshop; (iii) charging an unreasonable fee for copying public records; and (iv) requiring a person to make a request for public records to state the reason for the request. HELD: (i) The Town complied with FOIA’s public notice requirements by posting notice of the meetings in Town Hall, its principal office. FOIA only requires a posting at the meeting location if the public body does not have a principal office; (ii) including discussion of the dangerous building ordinance on the meeting/workshop agenda was sufficient notice to satisfy FOIA’s notice provisions; (iii) charges for copying public records were reasonable under FOIA; and (iv) FOIA does not give a public body any authority to withhold public records because the request is irresponsible or frivolous, although the pending/potential litigation exemption provides a narrow exception to this general rule. The purpose of a FOIA request for records is irrelevant and a public body cannot ask the reason for the request or condition the processing of the request on a statement of purpose by the requestor.

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06-IB08 – RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Woodbridge School District

Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge School District violated the open meeting requirements of FOIA when it posted an amended agenda for a public meeting less than seven days in advance of that meeting, and failed to indicate why the amended agenda was not available at the time of the original posting. The School District provided a copy of the amended agenda, which included reasons for the amendments on the last page of the agenda. Complainant argued this was not a “conspicuous posting” and that the notice and agenda still violated FOIA. HELD: Section 10004(e)(5) sets forth circumstances under which a public body may post an amended agenda less than 7 days before, but no later than 6 hours in advance, of a public meeting. The public body must provide reasons for the amendment, but this exception does not authorize a public body to amend the agenda prior to a meeting for any reason. Rather, these sorts of amendments apply to add items that come up suddenly and cannot be deferred to a later meeting. Under the circumstances of this case, the District’s reasons for posting an amended agenda less than seven days in advance of the meeting were deemed proper under FOIA and no violation was found. Additionally, the use of a double-sided agenda did not violate FOIA under the circumstances because the agenda was posted at the principal’s office, did not put a burden on members of the public to search out to discover public meetings, and the page numbering on the agenda clearly alerted members of the public to the existence of more pages.

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