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Open records law not available to 'tourists'

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Open records law not available to 'tourists'02/26/96 DELAWARE--In January, the state attorney general sided with a local mayor who refused…

Open records law not available to ‘tourists’

02/26/96

DELAWARE–In January, the state attorney general sided with a local mayor who refused to answer a visitor’s questions during a town council meeting, holding that the state’s Freedom of Information Act “applies only to Delaware citizens.”

At a town council meeting in September 1995, Dewey Beach Mayor Robert Frederick rebuffed an inquisitive audience member because she was a “tourist.”

The attorney general noted that the language of Delaware’s FOI Act declares that it was adopted to “further the accountability of government to the citizens of this State,” and that all public records “shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizen of the State.”

“While there is no restriction of whom may attend a public hearing,” the attorney general wrote, “and while a non-citizen of the State may publicly pose questions to the Town Commissioners at the meeting, a public request for information at the meeting does not require the Town to respond accordingly.”

The opinion by Delaware Deputy Attorney General John Welch followed an investigation by the attorney general’s office into a complaint filed on behalf of “Ms. Payne” of Maryland whose questions were ignored at the meeting. Payne had sent a written Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request to town officials in July 1995. (Op. of Del. Att’y Gen. No. 96-IB01)