Further Adventures in the Land of FOI

Ron Bolin: Feb. 12, 2014

Apropos the incinerator waffle and the conduct of RDN staff in carrying out their duties to their respective elected officials, I offer the following earlier case which I encountered with the City of Nanaimo under similar circumstances.

Back in 2011, before we had “smartmeters”, i.e. active radiation devices, forced on us in lieu of extortionate fees, Fred Pattje brought to Council a motion to inform BC Hydro that the City of Nanaimo requested a moratorium on this action pending further study.  The motion passed 8-1. In 2013 I called Councillor Pattje to request a copy of the letter sent by Staff as a result.  He informed me that he had never seen the document which had been sent and didn’t have a copy of it.

I next contacted our Legislative Services Manager at the time to request a copy.  This elicited the following email exchange which demanded an official FOI request which was duly submitted.  This exchange, as is the way with email protocol, needs to be read from the earliest message at the bottom through subsequent exchanges toward the top:

City FOI request

After some time the following information was received from the City:

City FOI001

It is of interest to examine the peculiarities associated with the materials which were finally released to me relative to the timing and outcomes associated with my FOI request from the Regional District of Nanaimo which I presented in a previous post.

What first struck me is the fact that the Letter to BC Hydro, rather than being sent by the Manager of Legislative Services, was sent by the Mayor.  His participation at this level in the day to day administration of the City, I find odd.

What struck me next was the absence of a date on the letter.  We have highly qualified secretarial staff to prepare and send letters of behalf of the City.  How was the date forgotten?

And lastly it seems very odd, for the same reason of secretarial oversight on behalf of BC Hydro, that the only reference in the body of the text to Nanaimo should be in the last paragraph of the front page of the letter which the City forwarded to me that: “We understand that some residents in the District of Central Saanich (emphasis mine) have concerns related to the Smart Metering Program.”  Central Saanich??

Now these peculiarities do not prove malfeasance, but they do raise questions about the manner in which important matters of City business which express the wishes of Council as defined by motions passed in public by that body are handled.  The similarities in the apparent laxity in dealing with important issues of public policy at the RDN is hard to overlook.  Are the wishes expressed by our elected officials in a public forum inappropriately handled by the staff which are employed to serve them (and us).  Can we trust what we see at Council?  Are there other such circumstances of which we are not aware?