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Delaware Department of Justice
Attorney General
Kathy Jennings

Attorney General's Opinions

96-IB12: FOIA Complaint-Woodbridge School District

Date Posted: Monday, April 15th, 1996

The Complainant alleged that the Woodbridge school board held closed meetings in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Complainant alleged that a quorum of school board members met before and after school board meetings and discussed public business. The school board argued that on two of the three alleged occasions, the school board members were simply talking, not about public business. Held: the board violated FOIA when a quorum discussed public business in the form of discussing the possibility of a Little League team renting out the gym. However, this violation was later cured when the full board met in public meeting, discussed the issue and voted. There was no evidence that public business was discussed during the other two instances, but board members should be cognizant of such discussions as they bear the burden of refuting violation claims.

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96-IB11: Re: Motion for Reconsideration – Georgetown Town Council Lynn M. DeLeon – Freedom of Information Act Complaint, 29 Del. C. §10005(e)

Date Posted: Wednesday, March 20th, 1996

Georgetown Town Council motioned for reargument on A.G. Opinion 96-IB05 based on the decision of Kansas City Star Company v. Fulson, 859 S.W.2d 934 (1993). Held: motion is denied. Unlike the meetings in Kansas City Star Company, the Georgetown Town Council conducted public business when it held separate meetings to discuss and ratify the November, 1995 memorandum regarding personnel and other issues.

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96-IB05: FOIA-Town of Georgetown

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 13th, 1996

The Complainant alleged that the Georgetown Town Council violated the Freedom of Information Act. Complainant alleged that the Council met daily in violation of FOIA and also submitted a memorandum for which there was no public record. The Council argued that there was no specificity as to their daily meetings and argued that the Memorandum was reviewed with separate council members but at no time was a quorum present warranting a public meeting that complied with the Act. Held: there was no evidence that the Council met daily in violation of the Act. However, the Memorandum was executed in violation of the Act. A public body may be subject to FOIA even if a quorum is not present, as was the case here where small groups met to discuss the memorandum. The fact that Council met in sub-groups to discuss, formulate and execute the November 27, 1995 memorandum suggests that the Council acted deliberately to circumvent the public notice, agenda and record keeping requirements of the Act.

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96-IB02: Freedom of Information Act regarding Newark City Council

Date Posted: Tuesday, January 2nd, 1996

The Complainant requested an investigation into three meetings the Newark City Council held with the University of Delaware. These meetings were not open to the public and no record was kept. Newark City Council argued that no quorum was present at any of the meetings and, therefore, the meetings were not those of a public body. Held: ad hoc committees are considered public bodies and the breakdown of council members into three groups is the formation of ad hoc committees. The formation of three ad hoc committees to meet with the same university staff to discuss essentially the same topics was a scheme to avoid compliance with FOIA.

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

Date Posted: Tuesday, January 2nd, 1996

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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96-IB01: FOIA-Dewey Beach Town Council

Date Posted: Tuesday, January 2nd, 1996

The Complainant alleged that the Mayor of Dewey Beach improperly refused to respond to a question from a Maryland resident during a public town meeting. The Maryland resident also filed a Freedom of Information request. The town of Dewey Beach responded to the request but also noted that it need not fulfill FOIA requests made by non-Delawareans. Held: Delaware’s FOIA is applicable only to “citizens of the State,” meaning citizens of the State of Delaware.

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95-IB35 Freedom of Information Act Complaint Woodbridge School District

Date Posted: Thursday, November 2nd, 1995

The Complainant alleged that the District failed to note on the meeting agenda that the agenda was subject to change or modification and, therefore, any modifications made to the agenda at the meeting were in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Held: FOIA expressly provides that posted agendas are subject to change and modification, the agendas do not need to contain such language, and any modification to the agenda was not a violation of FOIA. Next, the Complainant alleged that Board members impermissibly gathered in the Superintendent’s office prior to the meeting. Held: there is no evidence that the board members discussed public business, therefore there is no violation. Next, the Complainant alleged that the Board attempted to discuss pending litigation during executive session even though it was not on the agenda. Held: the pending litigation was not actually discussed so the point is moot. Next, the Complainant alleged that the Board did not give proper notice of its intent to conduct interviews for principal during executive session. In this case, the agenda stated “Personnel” matters were to be discussed during executive session. Held: “Personnel” does not give adequate notice of the interviewing of a candidate, which would fit better into the Section 10004(b)(1) reason for executive sessions, therefore there was not adequate notice of the Board’s intent to hold executive session to conduct interviews. Finally, the Complainant alleged that the meeting’s record did not encompass the executive session discussions. Held: those records were provided and the point is moot.

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95-IB34 Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint 29 Del. C. § 10005(e)

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 24th, 1995

The Complainant alleged that the school district impermissibly withheld documents regarding the status of a teacher and what was being done to address problems with that teacher. The District replied that they had provided all the public documents they had, had conducted meetings regarding the teacher and had no more information to provide. Held: the District has fulfilled its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and there is no violation.

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95-IB30 Use of Social Security Number Records by State Division of Revenue

Date Posted: Wednesday, September 27th, 1995

Civil Division – New Castle County September 27, 1995 Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 95-IB30 (Del.A.G.), 1995 WL 794497 (permitting the Director of the Division of Revenue, the state agency charged with administering and enforcing Delaware tax laws, to access Social Security numbers maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles) Michael O. McCann Deputy Administrator Department […]

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95-IB25 Freedom of Information Act Complaint 29 Del. C. ' 10005(e)

Date Posted: Tuesday, August 15th, 1995

Complainant alleged that New Castle County failed to respond to her request for records. The County indicated that it was preparing to respond to the request when the Complainant filed a pro se suit in Superior Court alleging, among other things, a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Held: jurisdiction rests with Superior Court.

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