Unencumbered access to government records can shine a light on farms funneling waste into our drinking water, lobbyists currying favor with legislators over email, teacher misconduct in the classroom, patient abuse at psychiatric facilities and volatile neighbors packing heat.Yet, in Delaware, all of the above remain off-limits to public inspection. The state consistently ranks among the bottom nationwide when it comes to government transparency and accountability, according to independent studies.Here, government agencies have no strict deadlines for producing documents, Family Court and Court of Common Pleas documents aren’t available online, taxpayer-supported universities can withhold the bulk of their records, the General Assembly shields its emails from public view and the burden of proof for a public document often falls on the requester rather than the publicly funded agency that’s supposed to supply it.Coinciding with Sunshine Week this month, The News Journal submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for all FOIA denials since 2012 from a sample of five state agencies, two local governments, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.The results reveal that First State citizens often send their public information requests into an abyss of government gatekeeping, riddled with inconsistent fees, persistent delays and denials based on misinterpretations of the law – all without penalty.“It’s full-time just to follow up on these FOIAs,” said an exasperated Maria… Read full this story
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