COMMENT: Tight lips tank trust

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
December 14th, 2012

Following the city’s overzealous and incorrect use of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA) to withhold letters that are clearly in the public’s interest and do not “unfairly” harm anyone’s reputation, I am left wondering what, exactly, remains in the five redacted lines in Coun. Kathy Moore’s letter that is so damaging as to warrant continued censorship?

I daresay, I don’t quite trust the city’s interpretation of FIPPA anymore. What do you think? Should I follow up to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) to ask them to determine, as an impartial third party, whether Moore’s five lines really ought to be beyond the public’s reach?

My guess is that the five lines contain some damaging comments, but “damage” is not the measure FIPPA uses for privacy; the act questions whether the damage is “fair.” Reading between the lines—literally—the censored words likely contain the official city explanation for their deviation from process and policy, the explanation that Moore thought so poorly served Rossland.

In related news, CAO Cecile Arnott recently claimed that Corporate Officer Tracey Butler spends one third of her time responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Twelve hours per week to scare up a few documents for the handful of people in Rossland who sometimes use FOI? Yeah, right.

I’m also beginning to think that, to the extent the city does deal with FOI requests, it’s a self-inflicted wound from time spent micromanaging information. It’s more like twelve hours per week arguing with OIPC to keep public records confidential.

To put it in perspective, with Butler’s shiny new $20,000 raise to $120,000 plus plus—way up from $60,000 in 2007, the end of the boom times for the rest of us—that’s $40,000 each year to ensure that documents are difficult for Rossland citizens to access. We spend less on bylaw enforcement and animal control, which also happen to be Butler’s domain!

Rather than hire a “confidential secretary”—as CAO Arnott has proposed and is pursuing—methinks it’s about time the city loosened its over-tight grip on information. That’s the time and money saver right there.

Moreover, since it’s pretty clear that someone on the inside found out about Jason Ward’s sideline business, the obvious question is, why was this swept under the carpet? At a minimum, why wasn’t council informed of Ward’s serious breach of his contract and the city’s purchasing policy?

Clearly council has failed us miserably in the arena issue, from the previous council not demanding that the mayor rein in Kumar’s headlong charge into the arena project without proper approval, to the present council not holding the former CAO to account for Ward’s actions once Moore brought them to everyone’s attention.

When Ward’s violations were discovered in 2011, it was the CAO’s responsibility to inform the mayor and the mayor’s minimum responsibility to immediately inform council.

It was council’s role to decide whether an investigation was necessary—that means back in the fall of 2011 when Ward was shuffled out the door “for personal reasons,” not in July, 2012, after repeated hounding from one councillor.

We elect our mayor and council to be responsible to us. Governments are not elected “to make decisions,” as I’ve heard trumpeted recently in chambers, as if being elected automatically confers some rarified wisdom to which the rest of us aren’t privy.

No, first and foremost we elect them to be responsible. To us.

This post was syndicated from https://rosslandtelegraph.com