In response to an open-records request asking for information about the state of Delaware’s anti-terrorism grant spending, a public information officer at the Department of Safety and Homeland Security provided just seven pages of information after consulting with government lawyers. A handful of states told us their open-government laws allowed information considered “security-sensitive” to be exempt from disclosure arguing that they could be vulnerable if terrorists knew the type of equipment used for emergency preparedness. The details Delaware supplied are slim and don’t come close to the spreadsheets made available by some other states that list each piece of equipment purchased, the quantity, how much it cost and more. But they nonetheless offer some insight. One document from Delaware, available for download below, is a list of $10 million worth of specialized emergency-response vehicles purchased by communities across the state, a popular item that also topped wish lists elsewhere around the country. The vehicles include mobile-command trucks, which can cost more than half-a-million dollars each and are stuffed with pricey communications equipment, plasma monitors, conference rooms and biological-detection devices, among other things. Wilmington, Del., snapped up three of them, plus a $345,000 boat, records show. The Belvedere Volunteer Fire Company paid for a $377,000 hazardous-materials response truck with a trailer attached, while the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spent more than $600,000 on similar equipment. The police department in Wilmington and the Delaware State Police each bought $191,000 “special operations vehicles” from Massachusetts-based Lenco Industries, Inc., a company that builds armored units. Another document lists the state’s grant spending by category, such as training and administrative costs, but an overwhelming majority of the money went toward equipment purchases. Readers can also see break downs of how much each Delaware community has received in grants as of 2007. Recipients are required to use local funds for purchases before being reimbursed with the grants, which means as many as three years can pass before federal cash is actually delivered to a grantee. While state officials were reluctant to provide specific information about spending, publicly accessible audits show Delaware has had trouble in past years verifying some of its expenditures. Repeatedly auditors questioned hundreds of thousands of dollars in personnel costs, because the state didn’t show how employees paid with the grants carried out work tied to their anti-terrorism and preparedness purpose. The federal government is strict about such guidelines so states don’t try to save their own money by covering salaries and benefits for workers not performing homeland security-related tasks. State officials promised to better document work hours in response.
G.W. Schulz is a reporter for Reveal, covering security, privacy, technology and criminal justice. Since joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2008, he's reported stories for NPR, KQED, Wired.com, The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones and more. Prior to that, he wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was an early contributor to The Chauncey Bailey Project, which won a Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors in 2008. Schulz also has won awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter. He graduated from the University of Kansas and is based in Austin, Texas.More by G.W. Schulz