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Petitioner alleged that the Board of Education of the Sussex Vocational Technical School District violated FOIA as follows: 1) improperly discussing and voting at its May 13, 2019 meeting to end the hospitality program through a phase-out; 2) holding executive sessions at the outset of every regular meeting without proper public notice; and 3) improperly deciding to terminate the hospitality program at the August 12, 2019 meeting effective
immediately without any public notice.
DECIDED: The Board violated FOIA at its May 13, 2019 meeting by voting to add the discussion and vote regarding the phase-out of the hospitality program at the outset of the meeting. When an agenda has not been amended at least six hours in advance of the meeting, FOIA only permits a new item be discussed if it arises out of a natural evolution of a publicly-noticed item on the agenda. A public body may not simply vote to adopt a new item on the agenda at the beginning of its meeting with no prior public notice.
No FOIA violation was found with respect to the August 12, 2019 meeting. No specific determination was made regarding the use of executive sessions, but this Office cautioned the Board to review its use of executive sessions.Read More
This Office was asked to determine whether Sussex County Council violated FOIA by discussing potential purchases of development rights in executive session.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. The purchase of an essential property right incident to the land is effectively an acquisition of land, which FOIA permits for discussion in executive session.Read More
Petitioner alleged that the Auditor of Accounts must possess, but did not disclose, certain requested records in response to his request for communications regarding Odyssey Charter School.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. When a public body provides an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, supporting its determination whether public records exist, this Office accepts the public body’s sworn representations in reviewing this determination.Read More
The City of Lewes responded to a FOIA request and provided records but refused to certify to the requestor that all records responsive to the request had been provided and refused to produce a duplicate copy of an email. This Office was asked to determine whether the City’s response was appropriate under FOIA.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. The FOIA statute does not require a public body granting access to records to certify that all responsive public documents have been provided to the requesting party, nor does it require that a public body produce multiple copies of identical public records.Read More
This Office was asked to determine whether the Delaware State Police appropriately denied a request for raw data regarding traffic stops.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. The requested information is exempt as investigatory files under 29 Del. C. § 10002(l)(3) and 12 Del. C. §313. Transferring the information from these reports into a digital format does not eliminate the exemptions for such information.Read More
Petitioner alleged that Dewey Beach provided records that were not responsive to their request for schedules of two Town employees.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. The Petitioner indicated during the petition process that they were seeking a level of detail that was not contained in the original request to the Town, and the Town expressed a willingness to provide additional public records in response to a more detailed request.
This Office was asked to address 1) whether New Castle County was required to provide time-stamped copies of the Petitioner’s requests, the envelopes they were mailed in, and all records generated as a result of the request; and 2) whether the County properly asserted that the Petitioner’s requests were too vague to require a response under FOIA.
DECIDED: The County violated FOIA by not specifically responding to the request for time-stamped copies of the requests and this Office recommended it make a reasonable search for responsive records and provide the Petitioner with a supplemental response. No other FOIA violation was found.
Petitioner alleged that the Department of Elections improperly withheld 48 pages of records listing campaign donors of former Wilmington mayor and disputed the Department’s claim that it had no other responsive records
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found. The records sought were more than 20 years old and the Department’s policy only called for 22 months’ retention.
Petitioner alleged that an incorrect date on the Department of Elections’ response to their request indicated a greater failure to comply with FOIA.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation was found.
Petitioner alleged DOI’s interim response advising that additional time was needed for legal review violated FOIA.
DECIDED: No FOIA violation found. FOIA expressly permits a public body to take additional time to respond to a request if legal advice is needed so long as a good faith estimate of the time needed is provided.