Via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Delaware Department of Justice
Attn: Kim Siegel, FOIA Coordinator
820 N. French Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
RE: FOIA VIOLATION
As a citizens watchdog group in Dewey Beach, we are concerned about an apparent FOIA violation which occurred at at the Town Council Meeting of February 9, 2019.
The matter arose during the announcement-only section of the Council agenda (prior to any of the approved agenda items being discussed), Mayor Redefer “announced” a working group/investigation of two commissioners and the town manager to do an “investigation” related to a FOIA (filed by our outside watchdog group), and an newspaper article which reported on approximately $300,000 of bartered military surplus equipment between the town and two private companies.
The video of the announcement at the Council Meeting is: http://tinyurl.com/yyk9x7cx
The unofficial transcript of the above meeting as shown on the video states:
[Mayor Redefer] “Announcements: I don’t have a lot I'm just going to quickly say that the Cape Gazette wrote an article, Mr. Smith sent a FOIA, Mr. Bauer asked for more information about what happened with Seasons Pizza and I would like to ask Commissioner Cooke, Commissioner Bauer, Scott Koenig [Town Manager] to look into that FOIA.”
The facts that seem to arise to a FOIA violation by the Dewey Mayor Redefer are as follows:
The item announced by the Mayor was not on the official meeting agenda in any form as an item to discuss or potentially vote (the agenda was was submitted a week before as required, and just approved without any mention of this item of an investigation prior to the mayor’s announcement as shown on the video).
The Mayor tasked a “working group” during the “announcements” period of the meeting, which as shown on the video, is reserved for such items as fundraisers, etc.
It surprised several of the Commissioners who had no idea this would be brought up. One Commissioner who was appointed to this “investigation” is clearly shown on the video as unaware of what the Mayor said or asked for, and the Mayor repeats himself.
There was no other notice to the public that this topic would be addressed.
Two commissioners will be reporting to the Mayor (leading to a majority of town council members outside a meeting).
The investigation is vague and scope undefined, without cost or time limits. Or purpose.
No working group meetings have been scheduled or announced, even though it has been over three weeks since the “investigation” was announced and it appears clear now that there are no plans to do so.
Any decision or conclusion by this working group would be made outside the view of the residents, the media, and the public in general..
The working group is not made up of investigators or charged with any authority to interview witnesses, and has not made any argument of confidentiality.
The Town Council held an executive session at the February 22, 2019 and while we have no information on what was discussed on that meeting, DCA believes it is likely that the town Council discussed this item behind closed doors. The “investigation” is not litigation, nor is reasonably expected to be, nor a personnel matter, so we seek to have information on whether the Mayor discussed this at the executive session. If so that would constitute an additional FOIA violation.
Dewey’s participation in the military surplus program remains of significant public interest in the town, and denying the residents and the media the right to participate in or even attend any meetings of the unofficial “investigation” is wrongful in the spirit if not the words of the Delaware FOIA law. The issue of the military surplus program first came to the attention of the residents and media in Dewey Beach since it was “found” by Attorney Max Walton in a report issued in September 2017. Auditors had missed the program entirely. We seek to ensure that the residents and the media have an open meetings and the opportunity to make public comment on this matter, but are currently unable to do so.
On behalf of the residents, the media, and the general public please look into this matter of an apparent violation of the FOIA statute and allow the meetings to be open to all.
Jeffrey C. Smith
Dewey Citizens for Accountability