Gov. Jack Markell signed an executive order today intended to simplify the process for Delaware citizens looking to access government documents through the Freedom of Information Act.


Gov. Jack Markell signed an executive order today intended to simplify the process for Delaware citizens looking to access government documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

The state has for years been criticized for its complex and inconsistent policies relating to FOIA requests. The executive order will require all executive branch agencies to adopt a standard policy for requests in order to streamline the process and make it less costly to the requester.

Markell said the changes he is requiring will help ensure state government is operating in a way that is “responsive, transparent and open.”

“We knew we had to do better,” Markell said. “Access is vital to the healthy functioning of a democracy.”

Markell also signed a piece of legislation that establishes a standard form for FOIA requests. Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) and Rep. Brad Bennett (D-Dover) will require all public bodies, including state government, local government and school districts to use the form.

“People recognize this is their government,” Peterson said. “They have a right to everything we do and publish.”

Markell’s order calls for changes that include a reduction of copying costs to 10 cents per page, with the first 20 pages provided at no charge; a “No Wrong Door” policy, which requires agencies to forward FOIA requests to other agencies that may be more appropriate; requires agencies to accept requests by mail, fax or email, or via the form required in SB 87 and a point of contact in each executive branch agency, whose duty it is to make every reasonable effort to assist parties requesting public records under FOIA.

Agencies will also need to develop a web portal that would allow citizens to make requests online through the department’s Web site. If not available already, agencies will need to make this change by Dec. 1, Markell said. All other FOIA policies will need to be adopted no later than Feb. 1.

“Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act helps ensure transparency and accountability in government, which is the people’s business,” said Markell. “This order and Senate Bill 87 are an important part of our efforts to make state government more open, efficient and responsive to the needs of Delaware citizens.”

Attorney General Beau Biden said by improving these policies, the governor will improve citizen’s confidence.

“Having access to government is critical in having confidence in the decisions you make,” he said. “This instills confidence that the government you run serves the people everyday.”