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Fenwick Island Calls Out Beach Town Mayors' Actions

The Association of Coastal Towns (ACT), which includes the beach towns of Lewes, Henlopen Acres, Rehoboth Beach, Bethany, South Bethany and Fenwick Island, have been required to respond to the Delaware Attorney General, in response to a FOIA petition from South Bethany resident, Mr. Ed Bintz, regarding their actions to hold secret meetings without public agendas and minutes, without informing the public of their negotiations with foreign owned US Wind, and for paying for a private consultant using tax payer funds without notifying their respective constituents, over a two year period.


The Town of Fenwick Island had questioned these actions by ACT and therefore pulled out of ACT negotiations with US Wind and would not use Fenwick Island tax payer money to pay for a private consultant to negotiate with US Wind. It appears only Fenwick Island of the six Delaware coastal town, acted above board and upheld it's fiduciary responsibility to its tax paying citizens. The remaining ACT mayors on the other hand, are responding to the Attorney General's office by making the argument that ACT is not a public body and therefore is not beholden to regular rules of disclosure or even FOIA requests. This is their argument despite the fact that ACT is a body that has a representative from each of the six coastal towns, and makes decisions that affect all of the towns and may utilize town and respective town tax payers to fund its initiatives. You may read below both the response letter from Fenwick Island mayor and ACT to the Attorney General.



Fenwick Island Mayor Letter to Delaware Attorney General:


As the representative of the Town of Fenwick Island to ACT, during an ACT meeting in the fall of 2022, I affirmatively advised the other representative members of ACT that I believed their decision to contract with a consultant, Bonnie Ram, through ACT, as opposed to through their individual towns, as a way of shielding their overtures to US Wind from their governing partner and constituents violated open government principles. I expressed that I believed the decision to hire Ms. Ram and any communication between Ms. Ram and US Wind should be public. Moreover, I highlighted that public taxpayer money was being used to support ACT (dues) and, specifically, a contract with the consultant, Bonnie Ram, and that trying to prevent public disclosure of discussions between the town and US Wind through some unsubstantiated Executive Counsel privilege was without legal basis and certainly violated, if not the law, the spirit of Delaware's Freedom of Information Act.


In the end, my warning was not heeded and while I was outvoted on the issue, I ensured, with the authority of an unanimous vote by Fenwick Island's Town Council in a public meeting, that the Town of Fenwick Island would not participate in any contract with a consultant or confidential communications with US Wind for a community benefits package and that NO dues from the Town of Fenwick Island would be used to finance Ms. Ram's endeavors.


While legal arguments can be debated after the fact, what is clear is that every representative of ACT that participated in the scheme to negotiate with US Wind "confidentially" did so with the intent to bind their towns to an agreement and did so with the intent of not disclosing those discussions to their constituents as they were ongoing, despite using taxpayer money to support their endeavors.


One of the most troubling events contained in the materials collected by the Petitioner, is that US Wind requested certain Mayors to intervene and prevent the Town of Fenwick Island's request to place on the public agenda of an ACT meeting a discussion of whether the coastal communities should seek a moratorium on windfarm development so that further scientific study could be undertaken before negatively impacting our ocean environment. It appears that the Mayors of Henlopen Acres and South Bethany asked the then President of ACT to remove/limit the request from the agenda and later further actively intervened to prevent robust discussion at the ensuing meeting. US Wind thanked these Mayors for their efforts in intervening and referenced the difficulty imposed by Fenwick's "public tactics" with a promise to work toward producing a monetary package for them. While I may be naive about politics, the entire premise that public discussion is somehow wrong, is on it's face to me, inconsistent with how a truly democratic government should work.


In conclusion, Mr. Bintz and every other public citizen impacted by the events set forth in Mr. Bintz's Petition should be provided relief to ensure that this type of behavior does not compromise open dialogue about the involvement of US Wind with our governmental and scientific decisionmakers - the same decisionmakers who will have the power to regulate and/or object to conditions that may forever change our way of life in Delaware.


Sincerely,

Natalie C. Magdeburger

Mayor, Town of Fenwick Island.



Do YOU think the ACT towns should be held accountable for their actions to hold secret meetings, not disclose their decisions to engage with US Wind to negotiate a community benefits package without he input from their town citizens AND pay for a private consultant with town tax pay funds? If so, you may wish to contact the Delaware Attorney General's office and voice your opinion on the matter.



SAMPLE EMAIL

Dear Delaware AG Office,

It is my understanding that the AG office is reviewing a petition from Mr. Bintz regarding the lack of transparency of the ACT beach towns to make their citizens aware of meetings, in the form of minutes, agendas and decisions that affect the town residents of our coastal communities, in specific, regarding closed door negotiations with US Wind and a private contractor, Ms. Bonnie Ram. 

It is my understanding that the ACT town mayors, ignored the advice of the Fenwick Island mayor, that these negotiations went against what is considered to be an open and transparent good governance. 

In addition, it is my understanding that the ACT mayors are arguing that ACT is not a public body nor subject to FOIA requests. The ACT town mayors do represent the coastal towns and so are in essence a public body that makes significant and long lasting decisions that affect the citizens of the coastal towns and all who visit the coastal towns, and that they do so with the support of town citizen taxes. 

Therefore I request that this case be reviewed, that ACT is in fact a public body and is subject to FOIA requests, and that ACT be sharply reprimanded for their actions to keep certain meetings, minutes and decisions hidden from the public they represent, with public funded taxes, and that this not be allowed to recur, to best protect the public from unfair government practices. 

Sincerely,

FenwickIslandResponse-ACT FOIA Complaint
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.00MB

ACT Letter Responding to FOIA Petition
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.20MB

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