Rep. John Kowalko’s endorsement of Chris Johnson for Attorney General of Delaware

Over the past few years I’ve found the Delaware DOJ to be unable or unwilling to enforce transparency and FOIA obligations of some state agencies including the executive branch. This unwillingness to investigate or take action in a number of cases even extended to a refusal to conduct a review of the DOJ itself in a critical matter of misappropriation of public funds requested by two state legislators. I discussed these discomforting actions with AG primary candidate Chris Johnson at some length. I evaluated his plans and policy proposals at length and concluded that he was the type of candidate I could endorse. When Mr. Johnson honored my request for a statement of his intentions in dealing with and enforcing good, transparent government and compliance with standards that would reassure the public he sent the following statement to me.

“The spirit of the Freedom of Information Act grants interested members of the public access to government records and open meetings for the purpose of increasing transparency and accountability. The State of Delaware says that, “Delawareans have the right to expect government transparency, and our State’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guarantees citizens’ access to information about our state and local governments.” When government agencies fail to uphold the public’s “right to know” by restricting access to information and meetings, it raises questions and gives reason for the public to grow increasingly distrustful of government.

The Department of Justice, per Delaware’s FOIA statute and Public Records Law, has the responsibility to enforce and respond to complaints that arise in this exchange of information. It is therefore incumbent upon the Attorney General to ensure that state agencies and other public bodies are compliant with their obligations of these laws.

This includes holding agencies accountable for overreach of executive privilege, and encouraging agencies and other applicable bodies to always err on the side of inclusion instead of redaction. It should be the role of government to keep the public informed and engaged, rather than in the dark and walking away with more questions than answers.

As your next Attorney General I pledge to build the public’s trust in government, by dramatically increasing transparency by pushing the Executive branch and the General Assembly to promote the following:

Strengthen continued investment in Open Data technology and further expansion of the Governor’s Open Data Council

Work to upgrade and digitize the State of Delaware’s FOIA portals so that Delawareans have access to 21st-Century technology.

Increase public accountability and oversight of the State’s use of major settlement funds (i.e. mortgage crisis funds or civil forfeiture funds)

Work with the General Assembly to make the FOIA appeals process more accessible to low-income and disadvantaged Delawareans”.

After reviewing all aspects of Chris Johnson’s intentions and policies I have come to the conclusion that Chris Johnson is best positioned and most able to serve the public’s needs as our next Attorney General. He is a man of the highest integrity and capabilities and I sincerely believe that he is committed to creating and strengthening a Department of Justice in Delaware that will commit itself to serving the best interests of all Delawareans fairly and equitably. Therefore I have decided to endorse Chris Johnson as my choice for Attorney General and I hope you will cast your vote for him in the primary election on September 6th and in the general election on November 6th.

Representative John Kowalko

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