Petitioner alleged that DNREC’s FOIA Coordinator violated FOIA by failing to provide adequate assistance by not responding to questions emailed on September 10, 2019 email and that the cost estimate was flawed because DNREC could use lower-paid employees to perform the search of electronic records; the nature of the work required was not included; and DNREC did not provide proof that it excluded fees necessary to perform a legal review of the responsive records.
No FOIA violation was found. DNREC’s failure to respond to the petitioner’s inquiries in these circumstances do not rise to the level of a FOIA violation. Based upon DNREC’s sworn affidavit and the representations made in response, this Office did not find a FOIA violation in DNREC’s preparation of this cost estimate.
Petitioner alleged spouse’s FOIA requests were improperly denied.
DECIDED: This Office declined to address the merits of the petition; only the individual whose request was denied has standing to file a petition to challenge that denial.Read More
Petitioner alleged that the Wilmington City Council violated FOIA by prohibiting him from providing public comment at a public meeting. The City argued that the public comment period, which is a separate session preceding the Council meeting, is not subject to FOIA’s open meetings provisions and further argued that Petitioner’s conduct justified excluding him from participation.
DECIDED: The public comment period is subject to FOIA’s open meeting requirements, and it was determined that the City violated FOIA by barring the petitioner from speaking in these circumstances.Read More
Petitioner alleged that Sussex County Council did not notice a meeting a full seven days in advance because the notice was posted after business hours one week before the meeting and further alleged that the Council did not provide a reason for amendments to the agenda.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found.Read More
Petitioner alleged that DNREC improperly withheld documents received from the US Air Force, claiming such records fell under the exemptions for investigatory files and the common law right of privacy.
DECIDED: This Office determined that DNREC did not meet its factual burden demonstrating that the investigatory file exemption is applicable to the records requested and that DNREC violated FOIA by declining to produce the records on this basis. This Office recommended DNREC, within fifteen business days of the date of this Opinion, produce a supplemental response to Petitioner’s FOIA request.
Petitioner alleged that a DIAA Sportsmanship Committee agenda item, “Sportsmanship Complaint-Parent” was not sufficient to notify the public that a complaint regarding the Concord High School lacrosse team would be discussed.
DECIDED: The Committee violated FOIA by not providing sufficient notice to the public of the subject to be discussed. However, no further remediation was recommended.Read More
Petitioner alleged that Sussex County’s Buffers and Wetlands Working Group was a public body and was required to meet the opening meeting requirements. He alleged the Working Group violated the open meeting requirements by posting the notices of its meetings at an inappropriate location, failing to include the votes to approve draft minutes in its agendas, and improperly excluding a meaningful recitation of the meetings’ discussions and the affiliations or roles of the attendees in the minutes.
DECIDED: Although this Office found that the Working Group was a public body, no FOIA violation was found.Read More
Petitioner alleged that DSP violated FOIA in multiple ways: 1) failed to respond to his request in a timely manner after notifying Petitioner an extension was needed; 2) did not contact DSP for clarification; 3) did not provide a good faith estimate; 4) did not claim providing certain records would constitute creation of records, as DSHS had in the past; 5) failed to provide the records in the format requested; 6) failed to advise Petitioner the records would be in a different format; 7) did not explain by separate letter how the records provided related to your request; 8) did not provide responsive records; and 9) did not respond to your question about the request 24 hours.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. As DSP provided a response, the allegations regarding timeliness were moot, though DSHS was recommended to provide more timely correspondence in the future. FOIA does not prohibit the disclosure of records but merely gives the public body the grounds to withhold records exempt from the definition of “public records.” DSP’s counsel represented that DSP produced the files responsive to the request in the only format available to DSP and “containing existing fields,” and in accordance with past practice, our Office accepted this representation regarding the existence of records. FOIA does not require a public body to convert its existing files into other formats. FOIA does not require a public body to explain why the provided records are responsive, send a separate cover letter, or respond to emails received in its normal course of business within certain timeframes.Read More
Petitioner alleged Dewey Beach violated FOIA in two ways: 1) failing to post the matter of Petitioner’s position on the agenda; and 2) failing to reserve this personnel discussion for executive session.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. The record demonstrated that no substantive discussion was held and FOIA does not prohibit discussing personnel topics in open session.Read More
Petitioner alleged that DNREC violated FOIA by requesting payment of its estimated fee in advance of a search and not providing sufficient assistance to help Petitioner reduce the costs or advising Petitioner of publicly available materials.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. Public bodies are permitted by the FOIA statute to require payment in advance. The factual record does not support the claims that DNREC provided inadequate assistance.Read More