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Green Delaware Urgent Action Alert #78

Administration of Del. Gov. Carper 
Attacks Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):
Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) proposes to charge for responding to freedom of information act requests

Action Items:

Port Penn, DE, October 25, 2000. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is holding a public hearing on a proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulation on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Richardson and Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover. DNREC proposes to charge "administrative fees" for responding to FOIA requests. The proposed regulation states:

"Charges for administrative fees include (1) Staff time associated with processing FOIA requests; (2) Locating and reviewing files; (3) Monitoring file reviews; (4) Generating computer records (electronic or print-outs); and (5) Preparing logs of records deemed non-public. ... charges will be calculated as follows (1) Administrative charges will be billed to the requestor per quarter hour. These charges will be billed at the current, hourly paygrade rate (pro-rated for quarter hour increments) of the employee(s) performing the service. Administrative charges will be in addition to any copying charges."

In other words, if you make a FOIA request you must pay DNREC bureaucrats to respond to it. (DNREC officials cited inadequate staff and funding as their justification for the charges, but were unable to tell us, as we go to press, what the hourly charges would be, how much money they expect to take in, or how these funds would be used.)

Freedom of Information Acts are one of the cornerstones of democracy (some would say: what remains of it) in the United States. FOIAs are among the most powerful tools citizens have for finding out what their governments are, or have been, up to. (For example, FOIA requests have been important to Green Delaware's successful campaigns against incineration.) Requesters under FOIAs have been charged only for costs of reproduction. To charge for the time taken by officials to respond to requests would have a devastating effect on the usefulness of FOIAs, especially by community groups with little or no money. It would set a dangerous precedent that might spread to other states and jurisdictions.

During the administration of pro-pollution Gov. Tom Carper, DNREC has used a variety of methods to maintain the APPEARANCE of public participation while reducing the REALITY of it. These have included setting up and subsidizing bogus, industry-controlled groups like the "Partnership for the Delaware Estuary," (see News #29) while harassing and ignoring community-based organizations (like Green Delaware) and harassment of anti-pollution advocates at public hearings. These measures have greatly accelerated under the reign of Nick DiPasquale as DNREC Secretary. (Many people want DiPasquale removed.)

ACTIONS NEEDED: Please call or email Gov. Carper (302.577.3210 (Wilm.), 302.739.4101 (Dover), ssnyder@state.de.us) and Secretary DiPasquale,(302.739.4403, ndipasquale@state.de.us) and (if you live in Delaware) your state Senator and Representative. Attend the public hearing if you can. ASK THAT THE PROPOSED REGULATION BE WITHDRAWN. Indicate that it will influence your vote in the coming elections. Ask any candidates you have contact with to take a position against the proposed charges.

Let us know what you think. 

Email us at 

GreenDel@dca.net

or contact
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX

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All work is done by volunteers and members including this website. 

This page was last updated on October 28th, 2000.
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