Follow up to latest FOIA complaint

Sussex County Online User Forums: Fenwick Island Discussion Forum: Follow up to latest FOIA complaint
By Scott Mumford on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 12:28 pm:

Carmean has filed another FOIA complaint against her fellow council members. This one, filed in a letter dated Feb. 8, alleges that the council has illegally kept from the public a management report based on findings of the town's auditor, Sombar & Co.

Carmean's letter said that "... a decision has been made, apparently by the council president (Peg Baunchalk) and a small group of council members to delay this presentation until sometime during the spring, when the audits for the past four years have been completed.

"Because of the serious nature of the audit results for 1999 and 2000 as well as the need to rectify past mistakes promptly, I would like to see this document made public at the next available opportunity," Carmean's letter said.

Carmean's letter also alleges that "there continues to be the possibility that certain members of the council are conducting public business behind the scenes" in violation of FOIA.

Carmean said the auditor's management letter is "another example of how business is conducted behind the scenes by one group while other council members and the public are excluded from the decision-making process."

She continued that she suspects some of her fellow council members are using private meetings, memos and e-mails as tools for the "crystallization of secret decisions to a point of just ceremonial acceptance."

In a telephone interview Monday, Feb. 10, 2003, Carmean said, "I take no joy in this." She said when she got a copy of the management letter, "I kind of thought it would summarize" the same points Thomas Sombar, president of Sombar & Co., made at a Jan. 31 council meeting regarding results of the 1999 and 2000 audits.

But Carmean said the management letter "goes well beyond" what was made public at the Jan. 31 meeting. "I was so stunned by what I saw," she said. "It contains recommendations and points out things the taxpayers need to know."


Has there been any follow up to this FOIA complaint? What was the issue that "goes well beyond" what was stated at the Jan. 31st council meeting? When will this information be made public?
I see no need for the council to keep anything from the public at this point. No more games. I, as well as so many individuals, want nothing more than to see this crisis though as swiftly and accurately as possible. Chris Clark's statement of getting a town manager is a great place to start. Drill this and make it happen town council. The public at this point wants to help in anyway. I hope the town council can believe this. This is our town too, stop shutting the public out. I'm very concerned, but I'm also an optimist. This will go away in time. Changes need to be made to insure something like this will never happen again. The facts need to be in black and white. It may be months, possibly years before this black cloud goes away. The damage has been done. The town council has an excellent opportunity to stop closing their doors and allow the public, the FICC in particular, help in getting Fenwick Island back on it's feet again.
I challenge the town council to step up. Those council members whose seats are up for re-election in August, this challenges goes directly to you. Do not roll over and quit as I know you won't. I'm tired, of seeing Fenwick Island in the media. I'm tired of the police issues, financial issues, personal issues, FOIA issues, etc... As a concerned citizen of the happenings of Fenwick Island, I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm certainly not happy with past issues the council took responsibilty for, but the town must move forward to correct the problems. I have faith certain members of the council will make this happen.

Anyway, back to my original questions...
Can anyone give me feedback on these questions? I know I vented slightly, but that's what I feel. It will be corrected and all this will end soon, but there is work to be done. Fenwick Island is better than this, much better.

By Elsie on Thursday, February 20, 2003 - 02:28 pm:

I trust that the Attorney General's office is following up on the letter from Ms. Carmean. If I understand the sequence, a FOIA letter is filed, the AG's office notifies the Council of the concerns and requests information regarding same and allows Council a reasonable time to respond. Then, once received, the AG's office must review and even possibly ask for more info. Upon final review, the AG's office renders its opinion and, if necessary, provides corrective directions for Council. If the letter is dated, Saturday, February 8, this sequence could not be complete yet. So, I would bet there is no feedback officially to date. Just my personal guess.

Suggest you attend the next regular Council meetingon March 7, 2003 at 3:30 p.m. Maybe something will be disclosed more then.

By the way, I love the positive attitude you used in your posting! In particular...
"The public at this point wants to help in anyway. I hope the town council can believe this.
...The town council has an excellent opportunity to stop closing their doors and allow the public, the FICC in particular, help in getting Fenwick Island back on it's feet again. ...I challenge the town council to step up. Those council members whose seats are up for re-election in August, this challenges goes directly to you. Do not roll over
and quit as I know you won't."

I am not so sure that the FICC should be so highlighted in there over the public in general, but I believe there are many who would love to help if they felt they were really helping.

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