Ruling: Lewes council met state open government requirements

 

GEORGETOWN — The City of Lewes met state open government requirements when advertising meetings to discuss the location of a proposed dog park, a Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor ruled on Thursday.

Lewes resident Gerald A. Lechliter (referred to as Col. Lechliter in the order for his service in the U.S. Army) claimed that the subject matter of an October 2014 meeting regarding a future dog park was not properly disclosed in a notice beforehand, and alleged violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

City Council received a favorable judgment, however, from Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III.

“Anyone intensely interested in any aspect of the Dog Park, including its location, was on notice that a subject close to his heart was under consideration,” the Vice Chancellor wrote in an 11-page decision.

“The City was considering a sublease of its open space for a dog park, and location is an indispensable element of a lease. The level of detail proposed by Col. Lechliter — presumably including that a change in the location of the Dog Park within the Open Space was under consideration—is inconsistent not only with the practical purpose

of the act, but with the specific provision at issue …”

Sam Glasscock

According to the order, Col. Lechliter has brought three actions to court contesting the transition of a previous industrial park area to be held by the State of Delaware as Open Space.

“Many issues were raised and decided or mooted in these litigations,” Vice Chancellor Glasscock wrote.

Also referenced was a city council meeting held on Jan. 11, 2016 that discussed possibly amending a sublease that would increase the size of the dog park.

In documents, Vice Chancellor Glasscock maintained, “(The) 2012 meeting approved a proposed location for the Dog Park off Park Road near the mosquito ditch.

(The) sublease approved by the Council at the 2014 Meeting was for land off Park Road near the cul-de-sac,” closer to Col. Lechliter’s residence.

In closing, the Court touched on Col. Lechliter’s military service for the country and pointed to his new role in life.

“He has spent the last several years on public service of another kind; attempting to force state and local government to comply with the law in the use of the Open Space …” Vice Chancellor Glasscock maintained.

“This concludes the third legal action in which he has undertaken that role.”

The military life and Bible were tied together as well.

“I have available to me the United States Army’s Field Service Regulations as they existed at the beginning of the First World War: They provide guidance on withdrawal from the field, noting that ‘[n]o other situation in combat demands so high an order of skill . . . as does withdrawal from action.’ ” Vice Chancellor Glasscock opined.

“And yet, Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a meet time for every thing to take place. I hope that the parties, all residents of the same small and pleasant city, can in the future relate as neighbors rather than litigants.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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