Public opinion favors state in Camden-Wyoming Sewer & Water Authority case
Public sentiment appears to be tilted in favor of the state of Delaware in its suit filed to compel the Camden-Wyoming Sewer & Water Authority to acknowledge its duty to comply with the state Freedom of Information Act.
Most people asked about the state of Delaware's lawsuit against the Camden-Wyoming Sewer & Water Authority were puzzled by the authority's argument that it was not a public body subject to the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Camden-Wyoming Sewer & Water Authority attorney Mary Sherlock, of the Weber Gallagher firm, has argued that state created the mechanism through which the authority could be created. But, since the towns of Camden and Wyoming created the authority, it was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act that the state, counties and municipalities fall under. In addition, CWSWA received neither state nor local taxes, she said.
In sum, Sherlock maintained the authority's argument that employee salaries were not subject to disclosure under the state's Freedom of Information Act based on its interpretation of state law while Deputy Attorney General Ralph Durstein said such a notion was "illogical" in opening arguments Monday morning before Superior Court of Delaware Judge Robert B. Young in the Kent County Courthouse.
Sandra M. Zaragoza, who co-owns The Corner Apothecary with Ruth Dixon off Main Street in Camden, on Thursday agreed with Durstein's assessment that the authority operated a monopoly funded by user fees paid by residents of the town. As such, the authority was required to disclose employee salaries and let the people decide whether they were high or low, he said.
"If I'm getting service only from the [CWSWA], then I feel like we have the right to know," Zaragoza said. "We don't have a choice.
"They're arguing they're a private enterprise but they're not really," she said. "It's natural resources that they're drawing from. The city of Dover and city of Dover electric have to provide salaries."
One merchant along Camden-Wyoming Avenue was a little more blunt in his assessment Thursday afternoon.
"It doesn't pass the stink test," said the man, who declined to use his name.
Wyoming Mayor Frankie Dale Rife said she thought Judge Young's questions appeared to show he was leaning toward the state in this case.
"If it says all records are available, does it not mean all records are available," Young said at one point Monday, quoting the state FOIA law.
Rife thought the Office of the Attorney General did a good job in laying out its case.
Wyoming Treasurer/Kent County Comptroller Georgette Williams and State Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) agreed with Rife. Williams' FOIA request denials in January and March 2011 prompted the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Beau Biden on Aug. 3.
Williams said she wanted to find out if CWSWA rates were fair and, as such, she sought salaries, benefits and pensions. She was glad oral arguments were finally heard Monday.
"We're getting pretty good at this waiting game," she said.