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Delaware Department of Justice
Attorney General
Kathy Jennings

 Pages Categorized With: "10002(a) Agenda"

00-IB12: Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaints Against Woodbridge School District

This opinion concerns three separate claims of Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) violations brought by Complainant against Woodbridge School District, arising out of board and committee meetings leading to an ultimately unsuccessful referendum. Held: FOIA does not require that public bodies holding public meetings permit members of the public to speak at such public meetings. In addition, and based on case law from the Delaware Court of Chancery, technical violations of FOIA – such as notice language indicating that the board will “reconsider” an issue when it is technically just “considering” the issue for the first time – are not sufficient to support either declaratory or injunctive relief against the public body. While there were certain technical violations of FOIA made by the district, none rose to a level sufficient to warrant remedial measures. The district was warned to be more careful in the future.

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99-IB03: Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Town of Bethany Beach

The Complainant alleged that the Town of Bethany Beach had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by (i) meeting in executive sessions on three occasions for purposes not authorized by law; and (ii) not giving the required notice of a special meeting held on February 19, 1999. The Town admitted that its Council had gone into executive session on the three days indicated and that it had not given the seven days notice of the special meeting typically required by FOIA, but argued that it had appropriate reasons for doing so. Held: With respect to the executive sessions, the Attorney General’s office reviewed the confidential minutes of the executive sessions and determined that they were held for appropriate purposes – to discuss personnel matters as they relate to specific employees. As for the notice of the Special Meeting, the notice itself was timely – because it was posted more than 24 hours before the meeting – but it was otherwise deficient because it did not explain the reasons why the Town was unable to meet the typical 7-day advance notice requirement. The Town was not required to recall the meeting.

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97-IB20: RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Cape Henlopen School Dis

Complainant alleged that the Cape Henlopen School District violated FOIA by holding a meeting without providing proper notice to the public, or disclosing on the agenda that the district might vote to spend public monies for new locally funded teaching positions. The District argued that the issue arose at the meeting, so could not be disclosed in advance. HELD: The District did not violate FOIA’s notice requirements. The meeting was attended by a number of parents and teachers, including the complainant, the public was not misled by the agenda posted, and the conversation evolved into a substantive discussion that arose during the course of the meeting consistent with FOIA.

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97-IB17: RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against City of New Castle

Complainant alleged that the Council of the City of New Castle violated FOIA’s open meeting requirements by holding a meeting of the Public Safety Review Committee without providing adequate notice to the public. HELD: The committee violated FOIA’s open meetings laws when it (i) failed to provide 7 days notice of its meetings; and (ii) the notices posted failed to include meeting agendas. No remediation required, however, since these were technical violations of FOIA.

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97-IB13: RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against City of Lewes

Complaint alleged that the City of Lewes violated FOIA’s open meeting requirements by not providing the required notice of meetings where public business was discussed. HELD: The public body violated FOIA by (i) failing to post agenda for meetings of the Personnel Policy Review Committee; and (ii) failing to maintain minutes of those meetings. Additionally, a joint meeting between members of the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce to discuss public business constituted a “meeting” for purposes of FOIA, even though no formal action was taken by the body. However, neither the Chamber of Commerce nor the City was required to provide notice of the meeting because the bodies were not a “public body” for purposes of FOIA because the Mayor and Council members in attendance were only there for informational purposes and did not actively participate in discussions of public business that were later the subject of formal action by the City Council at one of its own meetings. Since the meetings were recorded, City ordered to create minutes of the Committee meetings to date as remediation, and to prepare minutes for all future meetings. The Committee also ordered to notice a special meeting to discuss any formal report or recommendation made by the Committee since its inception, and to give proper notice of that meeting to the public so that interested citizens can attend and comment.

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95-IB22 07/31/95 FOIA Opinion Letter to The Honorable Darrell J. Minott re: FOIA Complaint Concerning Meeting of Governor's Council On Equal Employment Opportunity

Requestor sought an opinion on whether the Governor’s Council on Equal Employment Opportunity was permitted to meet privately with invited guests. The Council was established by Executive Order and its members were appointed by the Governor or the Human Relations Commission. It is not statutorily exempted from the Freedom of Information Act and is supported, at least in part, by public funds. Held: the Council on Equal Employment Opportunity is a Public Body as defined by FOIA and must abide by the open meeting requirements therefore, private meetings with invited guests are not permitted. However, the Council is permitted to go into Executive Session as permitted by statute.

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