Freedom of Information????
Ron Bolin: October 22, 2017
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Earlier this year Roslyn Goldner, a lawyer at Goldner Law Corporation in Vancouver, produced a Report about allegations of Staff bullying at the Vancouver School Board. In two weeks’ time that report, with minor redaction, was released to the public, and can be found on line by googling for Goldner Report Vancouver.
Later in 2017 Ms. Goldner was retained to investigate similar charges at Nanaimo’s City Hall. The report was provided to the City nearly three months ago. To date nothing has been released to the public despite multiple FOI (Freedom of information) requests under Provincial FOI legislation.
For my part I submitted an FOI request for the Report since it did not appear in the media or on the City’s web site in more than a month after its arrival. On August 25, 2017, I submitted a question about an apparent requirement for formal FOI submission.
On August 31, 2017, I received a response from the City indicating that my interpretation of the requirement was incorrect which included the following paragraph:
“We currently already have a request for this report and are in the midst of processing it. Once that request is completed, and given to the applicant, we will post on our website shortly thereafter. We will post whatever ended up being released, with the appropriate redactions. Having said this, could you please let me know if you would like to proceed with your own request? I will start it from the day of your email below, and not from your response stating whether you wish to proceed or not.”
On September 6, 2017, I received another Letter from the City which stated:
“This letter acknowledges your request dated 2017-AUG-25 for copies of records related to the above-noted matter.
The requested records contain information that may affect the interests of another person (the “third party”). To assist us in determining whether we may disclose this information, we are giving the third party an opportunity to make representation concerning disclosure. We will notify you of the decision on whether we will disclose the records no later than 2017-0CT-10.”
On September 26, 2017, I received the following message from the City:
“Further to our letter of 2017-SEP-06, the City of Nanaimo is extending the time to respond to your request for up to an additional thirty (30) days. Additional time is needed to consult with a third party. This extension is in accordance with Section 10(1) of the Act:
(1) The head of a public body may extend the time for responding to a request for up
to 30 days if one or more of the following apply:
- the applicant does not give enough detail to enable the public body to identify a requested record;
- a large number of records are requested or must be searched and meeting the time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the public body;
- more time is needed to consult with a third party or other public body before the head can decide whether or not to give the applicant access to a requested record; or
- that the applicant has consented to the extension.
We are relying on Section 10(1)(c). Since our original response date was 2017-OCT-10 we will now respond no later than 2017-NOV-08. Despite the extension of the deadline to 2017-NOV-08 we will still make every effort to respond to your request in advance of this date.”
Last Friday, October 20, 2017, I received the following:
“I regret to inform you that the City of Nanaimo is unable to provide access to the records you have requested. The records you requested contain information that is excepted from disclosure under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act [Sections 13, 14, & 22]. Copies of these Sections of the Act are attached for your information.
Section 52 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act stipulates that you may request a review of the City of Nanaimo’s decision by the Information and Privacy Commissioner within 30 days of receipt of this letter. If you wish to request a review, please do so in writing to:
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia
It went on to provide copies of Section 13 (Policy Advice or recommendations); Section 14 (Legal Advice); and Section 22 (Disclosure harmful to personal privacy) from the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. Full documentation can be found on line at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.
Needless to say, I will be requesting a review of the City of Nanaimo’s decision as I did the last time I this situation arose when a segment from the video of a Council meeting was redacted.
Now I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that someone or more than one someone are trying very hard to make sure that the reasons behind the travesties that have been taking place at our City Hall are kept from Citizens who are paying a heavy price for the kerfuffle which has brought unwanted national attention to our town and cost taxpayers an as yet unknown amount in legal expenses. And who is that mysterious “third party” on which the original delay was based?
And what is the difference between the Vancouver School Board that the report on the similar bullying situation there was released in two weeks and ours still isn’t out after months. Who is protecting who…. And why??
Your Comments and views are appreciated.