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State settles FOIA suit with former state treasurer

Delaware Public Media

Gov. John Carney’s office confirms the state has paid former state Treasurer Chip Flowers $22,500 in taxpayer money to drop a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

Flowers had requested documents from former Governor Jack Markell and other state officials after leaving office in 2015. But Markell’s office withheld some documents, citing FOIA exemptions.

But John Flaherty of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government says those records should be made public.

“But when it comes to settlement agreements, confidential settlement agreements that I think this probably would be classified as, the public has a right to know what happened here," said Flaherty. "Taxpayer dollars were used to settle this case.”

Flaherty points to a 2002 Delaware Attorney General opinion that says documents related to a legal settlement are not exempt from public disclosure.

But a Superior Court judge ruled on Flowers’ lawsuit last August. He found the governor has broad authority to withhold public scrutiny of communications.

Delaware’s FOIA law exempts lawmakers from having to provide the public with communications between them and their staff. The governor can get around public disclosure requirements by copying a member of the state legislature.

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