Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Department of Justice finds Rehoboth Beach violated FOIA during hiring of city manager

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Department of Justice finds the City of Rehoboth Beach committed FOIA violations during the hiring of its new City Manager.

A group of concerned citizens and stakeholders filed a complaint with DOJ this month – alleging the city violated FOIA by failing to follow open meeting requirements when discussing candidates’ compensation, which ultimately was much higher than advertised.

DOJ says the City’s Board of Commissioners violated FOIA by failing to follow open meeting requirements when hiring Taylour Tedder.

The opinion details how the City failed to give proper notice for planned discussions of candidate qualifications, failed to discuss the contract and compensation package in open public session, and public comment was not scheduled for public meetings following executive sessions.

The petition also alleged the commission violated the city charter and that the search for the city manager was not led by the Personnel Committee, as is its purpose, but was led by the vice mayor. The DOJ did not respond to either of those complaints as they do not pertain to FOIA.

One complainant, Tom Gaynor, says they are delighted by the outcome, but sad it was necessary.

“It is our sincere hope that the City Commission will schedule the appropriate recommended meeting that the Attorney General has suggested to them in the very near future," Gaynor says. "So that the issues surrounding the pay package, that finally, people will get a chance to weigh in on decisions being made in their name with their money.”

As a result, the actions of the commissioners may be voidable, but it is up to the Court of Chancery to impose any sanctions. Gaynor says the city has options before that happens.

“There is a recommended mitigation that the Attorney General has set forth that will allow for the people’s voice and concerns to be heard," Gaynor says. "There is a necessity of a public forum, a public notice, and an opportunity for the public to be heard about an extraordinary pay package.”

DOJ recommends commissioners hold an FOIA compliant meeting, then ratify their vote. In a statement, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills says the board is disappointed with DOJ’s determination – and “always believed” the process was FOIA compliant.

However, Mills continues they support the AG’s committment to openness and transparency in government – he says the board “can and will do better.”

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.