Redaction Redacted… What Now?
Ron Bolin, Oct. 1, 2016
It has been over two years since I asked for the authority by which the City redacted the reading of a Notice of Motion from its video of the Council meeting of July 14, 2014. That request has led over the intervening years through the City’s FOI process, through the Office of the Ombudsperson, to two actions with the Office of the Commissioner of Privacy and Information of BC (OIPCBC) and back to the City for resolution. Along the way, the taxpayers of Nanaimo paid Staff members for time spent in preparing several hundred pages of legal depositions in the matter as well as paying a legal firm about $25,000 to defend before the OIPCBC an action (redaction) which I felt then, and still feel today, was indefensible. Those of you who may have followed this blog over the past few years will have read about it more than once as it proceeded along its painful way.
It ended last week with the following email:
From: “Sheila Gurrie” Sheila.Gurrie@nanaimo.ca
To: “‘Ron Bolin'” <email@example.com>
Cc: “‘Monique LeBlanc'” <MLeBlanc@oipc.bc.ca>
Subject: OIPC File: F1664946 City of Nanaimo Files: FOI00116; 78-FOI-2014
Date: Friday, September 23, 2016 16:24
Dear Mr. Bolin,
Please see the attached letter referencing the above noted file(s). I have copied in Monique LeBlanc, Investigator, OIPC, so she is aware this file has come to a conclusion.
The full video is too large to send via email, or to place on the City’s OwnCloud; therefore, I will have to mail a memory stick to you, or have you come pick it up. Please let me know your preference.
As well, I will be working to restore the video on the City’s website in the near future.
Thank you, and please let me know if you have any questions.
Sheila Gurrie, CIPP/C, CIAPP-P
City of Nanaimo
455 Wallace Street, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5J6
T 250.755.4489 F 250.755.4435
This email is intended to be received only by the person to whom it is addressed and may be PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL. If you have received this email in error please delete it and inform the sender immediately. Thank you.
From: “Monique LeBlanc” <MLeBlanc@oipc.bc.ca>
To: “‘Ron Bolin'” <firstname.lastname@example.org>; “Sheila Gurrie” <Sheila.Gurrie@nanaimo.ca>
Subject: RE: OIPC File: F1664946 City of Nanaimo Files: FOI00116; 78-FOI-2014
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 09:27
Good morning everyone,
As this record has now been provided in its entirety, there is no longer an issue for this office to review and I have closed this file. I have also advised the Registrar of Inquiries that this file will not be proceeding to adjudication.
Thank you both for your assistance and cooperation in resolving this file.
Monique LeBlanc CIPP/C, Investigator
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C.<http://www.oipc.bc.ca/>
4th Floor, 947 Fort Street, Victoria BC V8V 3K3
tel. 250-387-0354 | fax 250-387-1696
Follow us on Twitter<https://twitter.com/BCInfoPrivacy> | email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
This email and any attachments are only for the use of the intended recipient and must not be distributed, disclosed, used or copied by or to anyone else. If you receive this in error please contact the sender by return email and delete all copies of this email and any attachments.
Thus ends an ordeal which, in itself, is tragically insignificant… but which sustains the overarching objective of denying the right of the City to redact records after they have been made public at a public meeting and/or in a recording of a public meeting. It is incomprehensible to me that all this effort has been spent on a matter which should have ended before it began with the simple actions which have now been taken by the City…(dare we wonder if a changing of the guard has led to reason) and to note that the efforts of the OIPCBC and the expenses which they entailed over these past 2+ years would statutorily lead to a less public and more questionable end. (FIPPA only requires that the agency provide a copy of the record under dispute to the requestor if she/he is successful. It does not require that the public record be made whole.)
I will not belabour the matter further at this time. Those interested can read my previous posts on it. But I continue to maintain that the ability to change history after it has happened publicly is a first step toward tyranny. In our modern world video records, even those made by public amateurs in public places, are accepted as public records as witnessed by their use in legal proceedings. That municipalities should be granted immunity from their public acts in public is anathema. My thanks go to those in the current City of Nanaimo administration who have recognized this and acted accordingly.
Those who wish to view the full un-redacted record of the Council meeting of July 14, 2014, can see it on the video of that date on the City’s web site. If one goes to the item listed as “Notice of Motion” at the end of the agenda, one can hear then Councillor McKay read out the Notice that was, until last week, had been removed from the video record. Ask yourself what evoked such a response.
I look forward to your comments or questions on this issue. It is most assuredly a significant part of our governance.
You are amazing! Thank you for all your hard work!
BRAVO RON! Many thanks from this citizen for your tenacity!!
Great work Ron
So what happened to that motion?
Don: It never again saw the light of day as far as I know…. I think everyone involved would like to forget this whole affair, but went about the forgetting all wrong.
This always was totally improper. Good for you Ron. Too bad this is what it takes to have the City respect openess and transparency these days.
Jerry, thanks for the congrats. It certainly was a long haul…and of course the fundamental question has not been resolved. Perhaps in the spirit of openness and transparency you might be willing to provide the agreement which you reached with the City when you left. I note that I responded to your comment on Mr. Mema’s contract in Dominic Jones’ blog, but it was apparently disallowed or deleted before publication.
No problem Ron. It is publically available and has been from my perspective from the day it was signed in 2009. In fact it specifically includes a provision that the agreement Council set is NOT to be confidential. The agreement follows the publicly approved and available Bylaw 7000, the same document Which Council is today hiring staff under. (At least where the City has disclosed them. This is the sole agreement. It is public, as they all should be since it is public money. It is freely available on the web and has been for many years. Here is s link to the document as published and available today on your site. https://nanaimocityhall.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/berry-signed-settlement.pdf. Thanks, and keep fighting for openess and transparency. Jerry
Jerry: Thanks for sending documentation on the contract. A 2009 article in the Daily News:
“City’s top bureaucrat cashes out as he leaves job
UPDATED: Buyout package worth almost $500,000 raises questions about sudden departure
Derek Spalding / News Services,Daily News
October 7, 2009”
“Councillors say they cannot talk about Berry’s departure because the agreement prohibits “any discussion” about the settlement. The reasons for entering the discussions “will be consistent with the terms agreed” to in the settlement and “the joint media release agreed by the parties.”
Just as the motives of Mr. Mema and the City of Sechelt are left to the imagination in the case on which you recently commented in NewsNanaimo…but not to the courts as the move was legal, the question of why the City of Nanaimo, out of the goodness of its taxpayers hearts, should simply pony up a half a million dollars for your premature departure can equally be questioned. Your comments on NewsNanaimo about Mr. Mema’s case appear to call for your justification of the generous gift provided to you on your leaving. I note further that my attempt to respond to your comment on the matter in NewsNanaimo was rejected as, apparently, are all comments not agreeing with the views of that blogs author.
Thank you Ron for your persistence!
It is astounding to me that this redaction of public record happened in the first place and hopefully will never be attempted again. I think when citizens vote in municipal, provincial or federal elections, most of us hope that we can count on our elected officials to do what is best for those citizens. Instead what seems to often happen, is some politicians do what ever they can to save their political careers.
I don’t want to belabor this issue as there has been so much time * 2 + years * & money * $25,000 + * put into this file but it seems to me this shouldn’t be where this ends; is there not one last step? Did the council & city administration of the day not consult with their legal team to find out if they could do this or not? I can’t help but think this (redaction) was against some sort of law, was it not? If it isn’t, it should be! If it is, why hasn’t anyone or some people been held accountable for giving the orders to redact it? Why did some want it hidden from the public? It was merely a Notice of Motion, for heavens sake! and really nothing earth shattering.
So many questions have now surfaced because of this outcome. In the beginning (2+years ago) it was decided that the public should not see this section of the council meeting and now it is determined that we can.
It’s a head scratcher!
Dorothy: Part of the problem lies in the refusal to accept video records of Council meetings as “public records”. They are therefore not protected from redaction. The authority for this comes from the province and not the City, though the latter initially choose to hide behind it. In this instance and finally, however, the City did not hide.
I believe that there is another case of such redaction of a Nanaimo Council meeting video record and I hope that someone will take that one up as well. Unfortunately I have not been able to relocate it… and you will appreciate my desire that someone else take that one up, though I would be happy to assist.
Thank you Ron for clarifying this issue for me. It is indeed unfortunate that video recordings of Council meetings are not accepted as “public records”. I’ve always been a firm believer that “those who hide nothing, have nothing to hide”. And please know I absolutely do appreciate you would not want to spend another 2 years + chasing down another recording and I also appreciate your wiliness to help someone else take this on. That is what I find the most frustrating; that citizens have to invest so much of their time to constantly keep their hand on the pulse to make sure nothing gets hidden. It should not be like that.
Again, thank you for your time!
Anyone who read the story in the Nanaimo News Bulletin: http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/397328511.html can remove the last remnant of redaction which was done inappropriately by Staff not authorized to do so. (It can be found on the video of the June 22, 2015, meeting of City Council at 8:22:34 ). Please write to Ms. Gurrie requesting that it be removed (the redaction) and replaced (the video segment). This should then hopefully end this remnant of previous illegitimate uses of City power over public video records left over from the previous regime.