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Delaware Department of Justice
Attorney General
Kathy Jennings

 Pages Categorized With: "10002(h) Public Body"

06-IB25: RE Freedom of Information Act Against University of Delaware

Complainant alleged that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware violated FOIA by meeting to approve the election of a new president without giving notice to the public as required by FOIA. The University responded that FOIA only applies to full board of Trustees meetings. Therefore, the Committee was under no duty under FOIA to open its meetings to the public. HELD: The Committee did not violate the open meeting requirements of FOIA because the Committee is not a “public body” as defined by FOIA. Rather, only the full Board of Trustees is a “public body” for purposes of FOIA.

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02-IB19 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Joint School Boards of New Castle County

The Complainant alleged that the joint school boards of New Castle County (“Joint Board”) “consists of representatives of each of the public school boards in New Castle County” and that it is a public body covered by FOIA because it “functions on public funds and does, at least indirectly, influence public policy.” Held: the Joint Board is a “public body” for purposes of FOIA and subject to all of the requirements of the open meeting laws. The school boards were directed to notice these meetings to the public in the future in the same manner as they would a meeting of the individual school board under FOIA and to maintain minutes of the joint meetings.

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01-IB15 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Sussex County

Complainant alleged that Sussex County violated the Freedom of Information Act because meetings between the County Administrator and his department heads and staff held for the purpose of developing an operating budget for the county were not noticed and open to the public. Held: FOIA does not apply to discussions between the County Administrator (a “body of one” under the statute) and his department heads and staff. “It would be unrealistic, indeed intolerable, to require of such professionals that every meeting, every contact, and every discussion with anyone from whom they would seek counsel or consultation to assist in acquiring the necessary information, data or intelligence needed to advise or guide the authority by whom they are employed, be a public meeting.” Nor did holding such meetings constitute a delegation of authority to a committee such that the committee meetings were required to be open. That is especially so considering the fact that the public has a meaningful opportunity to review and comment on the proposed budget when it is being considered by the full council.

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00-IB08: Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against University of Delaware

The Complainant alleged that the University of Delaware had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by failing to answer a series of questions he had posed to the University in writing, and by meeting in executive session to approve a land transfer without public notice. Held: FOIA does not require public bodies to answer written questions. Further, FOIA does not include records in the custody of the University in its definition of “public records” unless such records “relat[e] to the expenditure of public funds.” FOIA further exempts the University from its open meeting requirements other than for meetings of the “full Board of Trustees.” Accordingly, the executive session held by a committee of the Board of Trustees was not subject to FOIA’s open meeting requirements, and the University’s agreement to provide any documents related to the expenditure of state funds negated any claim of violation with respect to access to public records.

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99-IB15 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against City of Newark

The Complainant alleged that the City of Newark violated the Freedom of Information Act by holding a meeting to discuss public business that was not open to the public. The City responded that the meeting in question was not a meeting of a council committee or other public body, but included representatives of the City, the State of Delaware and other state agencies to discuss a letter of award with the consulting firm that had been the winning bidder for a city contract. Held: The meeting was not one of a “public body” and it was therefore not required to be open. It included representatives across a number of state agencies, and largely consisted of City employees, not members of the City council. No FOIA violation had occurred.

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97-IB15 RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Caesar Rodney School District

Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 97-IB15 (Del.A.G.), 1997 WL 606474 Office of the Attorney General State of Delaware Opinion No. 97–IB15 August 22, 1997 RE: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Caesar Rodney School District *1 Mr. David Burke 66 West Fairfield Drive Dover, DE 19910 Dear Mr. Burke: By letter dated June 30, 1997 (received […]

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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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96-IB26: Re: Freedom of Information Complaint Sussex County Council

The Complainant alleged that a number of Sussex County Council members visited a manufactured housing facility in Pennsylvania, possibly in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The Complainant alleged that a quorum of County Council members toured the facility. The Council stated that attendance was voluntary and a quorum was not present. Held: the group touring the facility was not a public body because they were not appointed as a committee by the Council, attendance was voluntary and there was no indication that any report or recommendation was made to the Council by the members who attended.

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96-IB03 RE: Freedom of Information Act Document Request 29 Del. C. § 10003

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.

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95-IB20: Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint 29 Del. C. § 10005(e)

The Complainant alleged that administrative-staff meetings held by the school district should be considered public meetings because school board members were present. The district argued that only two board members were now present at the meetings, not a quorum, and that those members were not appointed to a subcommittee or special ad hoc committee. Held: if the board members make any formal or informal, express or implied recommendations to the full Board based upon any action proposed at the administrative-staff meetings, they would be considered a subcommittee and subject to open meetings requirements. However, based upon current facts, there is no violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

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