The News Journal article came out Sunday……

Through all the hoopla it is pretty obvious where the bone of contention lies….

Residents are paying too much for their bills and would like to know the salaries of those on the board to determine if they are simply being taken like sheep to the slaughterhouse….

Those on the board do not want their peers to know how much, or how little they actually make…

So obviously, if a way could be found to divulge the salaries to certain trusted parties, but shield them from the prying eyes of one’s neighbor who has never been up to any good as long as he’s owned the property next door, this dilemma could be quickly solved….

One avenue would be to offer the release of the salaries to the Attorney General’s office. Interested parties could then sign a binding agreement, subjecting themselves to fines and imprisonment if they divulge the information to anyone else.

This solution would meet the needs of both parties.

But to argue whether the Water/Sewer board needs comply with FOIA, is rather silly. Ms. Sherlock (Attorney at large) should have seen the implications and fallacies of such an argument, from great distances. I challenge her to respond.

I will briefly argue why the Board must comply with FOIA….

Although the Water Board is a private entity, one that does contract work for the state and local governments, because it is a utility, it has greater obligations than say someone who shovels snow off the courthouse steps, on a contractual basis.

In the snow-shoveler’s regard, his salary matters little. The grand total of the contract is public, saying: “this certain amount was paid to this person, for this service”. If someone can offer it cheaper, then great.

But a public utility receives very special allowances from local government. If contracted out to a private firm, that bond through government, is still viable.

Unlike the snow shoveler, customers of a utility are bound to use that product. What are they going to do? Say forget you and shit in their yard? Point is one can always get another snow shoveler. One can never get another utility at a moment’s notice.

For that reason, as stated in Delaware Code, Title 9, Chapter 23, 2303, if citizens want to establish a sewer or water works, it has to go to a vote among the very residences themselves. In other words, whether the entity exists at all, is up to the public voting process. This as direct correlation as to whether a utility is subject to the public’s inspection.

2304 The County Council then holds a public hearing, where all parties can express enthusiasm or dread over the upcoming origination of a new utility.

2305. After that public hearing, the County Council meets to decide “WHETHER IT IS IN THE PUBLIC‘S INTEREST TO ESTABLISH A WATER/SEWER DISTRICT AND EXACTLY WHAT BOUNDARIES THAT DISTRICT WOULD HAVE.
After the establishment of boundaries, the County Council receives an estimate of the potential cost, and must publish that cost, broken down per foot, in a PUBLIC venue.

2306 After this has been decided, “the County Council then shall cause an election to be held within 6 months following the date of the hearing, at which the question shall be submitted to the voters residing within the boundaries of the sanitary sewer district as fixed by the County Council as to whether the district shall be established or not. Notice of the election shall be advertised in the same manner as provided in § 2304 of this title for advertising the public hearing. The cost of the election shall be borne by the County Council, which shall be reimbursed for such cost by the district, if established by the election.”

Again, who pays the cost? The cost is borne by County Council, which shall be reimbursed for such cost by the district if established by election. If not, ie the sewer goes down in defeat, the County does not get reimbursed and eats the whole cost. That alone would establish grounds that the entity would be required to comply with all County regulation, including those of FOIA.

2307 If the election is successful, “the County has 30 days to authorize the the Department of Public Works and the County Attorney to procure the necessary land and rights-of-way by purchase, agreement, or by condemnation in accordance with existing laws…” In other words, even though the sewer may be a private entity, eventually, unlike the snow shoveler, it’s groundwork is completely laid out by public employees. That alone would be grounds that he entity should be required to comply with FOIA just as does the Public Works and the County Attorney according to existing law.

2308 If the county controls the main sewer system, into which the entity sends it’s sewage, and which without, the entity would not be able to exact the removal of sewage for which it was contracted, that would exact another reason why that entity would need also to comply to FOIA. Common sense: if contaminants were traced up through the public main sewers to the private sewer’s outlet, and no further information were allowable, then considerable public harm could ensue. Since the entity is dependent on County functions, it should also be required to assist the public when information was necessary for the public good.

2311 The County Council may issue tax free bonds to cover the costs of construction. The bonds are “backed by the full faith and credit of the county.” That alone, would be grounds for assuring that a private entity benefiting from public financing, as is this entity, would be required also to comply with FOIA requests.

2312 County Council shall advertise the bonds for sale in at least 2 issues in each of 2 newspapers, 1 of which shall be a newspaper of general circulation published in the City of Wilmington, and the other a newspaper of general circulation published in the City of New York, inviting bids for the bonds. The bonds are public. On these grounds alone, the private entity must be required to comply with FOIA.

2316 The County Council must do an annual Sanitary Sewer District Assessment, after holding a public hearing. The salaries could easily be required by this assessment under current law, and they must, as an expense, be given over to the County overseeing government. This alone, precludes the right of FOIA to pertain to a utility.

2318 Delaware law specifically states that the County government is responsible for all rules and regulations pertaining to the sewer entity. At will, it could determine that it is in the public‘s interest to know the salaries, and force compliance with existing law. Since the disclosure is enforceable by law, it should equally be required to be dispensed under a FOIA request.

2319 The County Council may accept grants or loans of money, labor, materials, equipment or technical assistance from agencies of the federal or state government or from interstate agencies established by law…. Public money supports utilities. They, even though private, are beholden to those laws affixed to the dispersion of public money. This alone would make the FOIA request fit within existing law.

2321 And if you needed just one, seal proof reason why a private utility must be treated as a public entity, despite who the actual owner may be…. it is this…

The County Council may, where it deems it necessary to the preservation of public health, order the owner of any lot or parcel of land within a sanitary district which abuts upon a street or other public way containing a sanitary sewer, which is part of or which is served or may be served by the county sewerage system and upon which lot or parcel of land a building shall have been constructed for residential, commercial or industrial use, to connect such building with such sanitary sewer.

Barbara Blomquist doesn’t have an alternative choice…….

Should she refuse?

If any owner shall fail to comply within 60 days with such order to connect with a sanitary sewer, the County Council shall forthwith institute action in a Justice of the Peace Court in New Castle County or in the Court of Chancery of the State to compel compliance with such order.

This is where their attorney falls short. It would just take one of these planks to enforce through legal action the compliance of FOIA in regards to a private (public) utility…. Although I applaud the libertarian intent to keep salaries private, for a private corporation, completely separate from government, that would be fine…

But for a arm of government, disguised as a private entity, that cannot be the case. It is still, as deemed by the citizens and voters of that district, seen as a public entity, because as the above pretty well shows, … it is…

It would only take one reason to force a FOIA judgment. I have given you eleven….

Form a Grand Jury, give them subpoena power, give them wiretap clearance, and get to the bottom… quickly..

Camden-Wyoming Sewer & Water Authority eventually will have to comply… it IS in the law.