Sussex County, Delaware

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Transparency grading process

Sussex County is one of three counties in Delaware. The county seat is Georgetown.

As of 2010, the population was 197,145.[1]

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of Delaware county websites

This website was reviewed on an unknown date.

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 13 years.[2]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[3]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and personalized email.
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and email form.[4]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 8 years.
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 8 years.[5]
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2003 are available.[6]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[7]
  • Public Records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by Communications Director. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[8]
    • A public records form is provided.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[9]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[10]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[11]

The bad

  • Elected Officials
    • Personalized email addresses are not provided.
  • Administrative Officials
    • Personalized email addresses are not provided.
  • Lobbying
    • Taxpayer funded lobbying terms are not posted.
  • Contracts
    • Approved contracts are not provided.

Public employees

County council

Council members are elected to four-year terms.[12]

2012 County Council[12]
Name District Party Term Ends
Michael H. Vincent 1st Republican 2012
Samuel R. Wilson, Jr. 2nd Republican 2012
Joan R. Deaver 3rd Democrat 2012
George B. Cole 4th Republican 2014
Vance C. Phillips 5th Republican 2014

County administrator

The Sussex County administrator is Todd Lawson.[13] He became administrator on January 1, 2012, taking over for retiring David Baker.[14]

Prayer suit

A watchdog group has sued Sussex over the county's practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer before meetings, saying it violates the separation of church and state. The case is going to federal court.[15]

Budget

2012 Budget Revenues[16]
Source 2008 Actual 2009 Actual 2010 Actual 2011 Budget 2012 Budget
Taxes $33,293,614 $26,637,765 $26,463,541 $26,162,838 $27,110,007
Intergovernmental $201,846 $272,136 $60,626 $100,000 $145,125
Payments in Lieu of Taxes $10,857 $6,658 $6,341 $6,400 $6,300
State $5,535,168 $5,515,895 $4,321,611 $3,996,007 $4,073,959
Constitutional Office Fees $6,456,764 $6,940,930 $7,039,506 $6,681,200 $7,054,000
Permit & License Fees $4,398,104 $3,266,691 $3,422,771 $3,376,000 $3,379,630
Land and Sewer $868,653 $687,437 $548,036 $522,900 $529,410
Other Charges $100,504 $115,854 $134,043 $104,000 $112,000
Fines $24,593 $23,971 $20,225 $22,000 $26,000
Miscellaneous $4,107,206 $2,336,595 $1,199,723 $1,803,670 $1,304,560
Donations $288,367 $1,893,885 $3,756,027 $4,067,632 $4,265,786
Total Revenues $55,185,676 $47,697,817 $46,972,450 $46,842,647 $48,006,777

Open Meetings violations

2011

The County Council appears to have violated Delaware's Freedom of Information Act by meeting privately to discuss the appointment of the county Administrator which oversees the county's $140 million budget and 500 employees. The State Attorney General's Office has twice previously ruled in other cases that these meetings must be open to the public[17]

2009

In July of 2009 two county officials for Sussex County were charged with violating the Delaware Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release e-mails proving two of the county members had discussed county business outside of a public meeting. Dan Kramer and Dan Gaffney, host of a morning show on WGMD radio, filed requests seeking all email and text messages between former Sussex County Council President Dale Dukes, County Administrator David Baker, Deputy Administrator Hal Godwin and six current or former council members. The Attorney General ruled that charging the amount of $227.12 for the public records was not a violation of the Freedom of Information Act, though could be a violation of the Open Meetings Law.[18]

External links

References

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, "Quick Facts," accessed January 2, 2012
  2. Sussex County, Budgets, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link)
  3. Sussex County, Staff Directory, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link)
  4. Sussex County, Elected Officials, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  5. Sussex County, Meeting Schedule, Minutes, and Agendas, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013
  6. Sussex County, Audits, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  7. Sussex County, RFPs, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link)
  8. Sussex County, FOIA, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link)
  9. Sussex County, Property Tax Information, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013
  10. Sussex County, Zoning, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  11. Sussex County, Building Permits, Accessed: Feb 27, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  12. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named cc
  13. Sussex County, "Administration," accessed January 2, 2012 (dead link) (dead link)
  14. WGMD "Todd Lawson takes over as new Sussex County Administrator," accessed January 2, 2012 (dead link)
  15. Delaware Online, "Prayer suit has cost Sussex $25,000," accessed January 2, 2012
  16. Sussex County, "2012 Budget," accessed January 2, 2012
  17. "Delaware Online" Council draws fire from transparency advocates March 22, 2011
  18. Cape Gazette, Sussex council emails: worth $227.12?, June 14, 2009