Is the city of Seaford at IT again? IT would be violating the state laws known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the open meetings laws. Now the city of Seaford has held at least two secret meetings of its Board of Elections (the Board) and tried unsuccessfully to hold a third. Uncovering these secret meetings was tortuous.
Except for the efforts of a Seaford City Councilman, there would be no public record of any meetings of the Board of Elections in 2020. This councilman discovered city plans to hold a secret meeting of the Board in late April. His objections caused cancellation of the planned secret meeting. Subsequently, an announced meeting of the Board was held on 5/6/20. This resulted in the publication of minutes of the 5/6/20 meeting of the board (http:// www.seafordde.com/pdfs/5-6-20._Board_ of_Election_min.pdf).
These 5/6/20 minutes were critically important as until their publication there was no inkling in the public record of a prior 4/15/20 meeting of this board. With the help of another Seaford City Councilman, the existence of this secret 4/15/20 meeting was confirmed. Shortly thereafter minutes of the 4/15/20 meeting of the board (http://www.seafordde.com/ pdfs/April_15,_2020.pdf) appeared on the city’s website.
Then in turn, these 4/15/20 minutes revealed the likelihood of yet another, prior meeting of the board. My several inquiries to the members of the board about meetings prior to 4/15/20 went unanswered, undoubtedly at the direction of the city’s lawyer, solicitor Dan Griffith.
However as if by magic, brand new minutes of an unknown 3/18/20 meeting of Seaford’s Board of Elections (http://www.seafordde.com/pdfs/ March_18,_2020.pdf) appeared on the city’s website on/around 6/10/20 confirming the existence of a second secret meeting of the board.
The city of Seaford’s strenuous efforts to keep the 3/18/20, the 4/15/20 and 5/6/20 Board of Elections’ meetings hidden from the public are nothing short of astounding.
Ethically such behavior is indefensible.
However, it will be up to the Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine if these behaviors are illegal. Given the city’s past history of such FOIA violations, the DOJ may also determine consequence(s) for such behavior.
But for me, the questions as to why the city would try to hide meetings of its Board of Elections prior to a closely contested race for mayor linger.