The Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority has refused to hand over documents showing how much the utility is paying its employees, in spite of a new state law that made the organization subject to Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act.


The Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority has refused to hand over documents showing how much the utility is paying its employees, in spite of a new state law that made the organization subject to Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act.

Three weeks ago, Wyoming Councilwoman Georgette Williams asked for comprehensive salary and benefits information as well as details related to consultants’ fees — requests the authority denied several months ago on the grounds that the organization is not a “public body” as defined by state law.

After the first denial, and in light of the authority’s repeated refusals to justify its comparatively high rate schedule to customers and public officials, Camden-Wyoming area lawmakers Sen. Brian Bushweller and Rep. Don Blakey filed legislation that makes clear the authority’s status as a public body, and its obligations under FOIA.

The bill flew through the General Assembly and was signed into law April 19.

However, the response Williams received from the authority’s attorney seems to ignore the new law entirely.

In a letter to Williams dated May 23, Dover lawyer Mary E. Sherlock wrote that the authority is not a public body and, even if it was, it wouldn’t have to hand over employee salary information.

In support of the arguments, Sherlock cited a pair of decades-old Delaware court cases involving the Wilmington News Journal.

The letter does say the authority’s total consultant payments can be found in its annual financial report, and mentions that the authority does not cover health insurance and pension benefits for consultants.

But Bushweller said those answers are wholly inadequate. A total budget line for consultants’ fees gives no clues as to whom is being paid for what, he said, and the statement about benefits for consultants does little to fully explain the relationship the authority has with consultants.

Bushweller said it’s suspicious that the letter doesn’t specifically rule out the possibility that consultants are being allowed to buy into the benefits themselves, using the fees they’ve been paid by the authority.

All in all, Bushweller said the authority’s extreme reluctance to explain its financial practices to the public has only given people more reason to believe something is being concealed.

“They’ve been so secretive, now people have all these questions,” he said. “Now that we’ve done the [legislation], it’s crystal clear the authority is covered by FOIA. It makes you wonder.”

Williams said she has filed an official request with the Attorney General’s Office asking it to review the legality of the authority’s denial — a remedy afforded to her under the law.

“They have to release the information, I would hope that the Attorney General’s office is going to rule in our favor,” she said. “When the law was passed we figured this would eliminate it and we’d be able to get the answers.”

Authority Superintendent Harold L. Scott Sr. offered no comment on the issue and referred all questions to Sherlock, who did not respond to phone calls.

Mark M. Dyer Sr., president of the authority’s board, also refused to comment.

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com