Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Freedom of Information Update 2

Posted by auroracitizen on April 29, 2010

There have been a number of comments to the original posts on this subject enquiring on the status. 

Past posts:

Freedom of Information Update-March 12

Freedom Of Information and Aurora Coalition – Part 2-Jan 3

Freedom Of Information and Aurora Coalition – Part 1-Dec 30

The update is as follows;

On March 24th, Shannon Boychuk, Acting Deputy Clerk, sent a letter (click on link to see the full letter) to the lawyer indicating that a number of the requests were possibly exempt and that for the balance it would cost $1,065 to cover the costs to locate and provide the requested files.

It is worthy of note that this letter was received at the end of the allowed time for a response. One might wonder why it took so long to respond.  Did they delay the maximum time as a strategy to avoid — or did it actually take that long to craft a response. We’ll leave it to our readers to decide the appropriate answer.

The lawyer then agreed (although they had no choice) to the demand for an additional 40 days to produce the documents as well as sent a cheque to cover the 50% deposit of $532.50 on April 1st.

So now you know everything we know.

We really think is says something about the openness and transparency of this Council where every piece of information must be purchased at a personal cost to a taxpayer.

Maybe if the same principle was applied to Councillors and they were charged for make-work staff reports that are never acted on, we could save money and reduce the time wasted by staff as well. Just a thought.

Stay tuned.

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11 Responses to “Freedom of Information Update 2”

  1. Richard Johnson said

    Given the recent postings on this blog concerning the apparent large staff turn-over of senior staff and management at the town hall, I had to ask if this was indicative of a typical staff turn-over rate over the previous three Council terms or is this some kind of anomaly ? One would think that Council might want to answer the same question given the potential implications in any number of ways. I sent my question to the Town Clerk who then promptly asked me to file an FOI request. It appears to me like FOI’s are now part of the town’s response procedures which is unusual given the Mayor’s election promises in 2006 to create a more transparent and responsive atmosphere at the town hall, not to mention a better working environment.

    The town is now calculating how much it will cost me to get an answer to what I thought was an obvious question. I think we all know where this is going. Of course a staff report at Council’s request could also elicit an answer to this basic question at no cost to me, but we all know that’s unlikely to happen.

    • Augustinius said

      Possibly you should follow up your aforementioned request with a second request, namely how many FOI requests has the town received in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and this year to date?

    • Richard Johnson said

      I’m aware of four different groups or individuals (including a local reporter) that have each filed multiple FOIs, so I trust that there may well have been an increase in FOI requests during the current term, as compared with previous councils.

      At this stage I plan to concentrate on the current FOI request I have submitted, but I can only hope that others, including the local media, continue to dig deeper in order to establish what is really going on at the town hall as we draw closer to the municipal election on October 25th.

      If recent history tells us anything, this election will very likely require some very close scrutiny and more than a few reality checks. I can just imagine what the Mayor will try and pass of as her version of reality this time around. As the saying goes…fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

      The facts will speak volumes if anyone cares to dig for them.

  2. White Knight said

    Perhaps if and when the documents are released they will resemble the Afghan detainees documents…. 99.9% blacked out and censured for so-called national security reasons. It may not be national security here but I am sure that Morris would like to keep town shenanigans “secure” from public eyes. Interesting that Harper’s and Morris’s campaigns both pledged government transparency and accountability. Neither has delivered since being elected!

  3. Thanks Will Be Given Come October said

    If you think Phyllis isn’t aware of these FOI requests I’d like to know what colour the sky is in your world.

    But the problem is that they are required of this manipulating, furtive administration in the first place.

  4. Augustinius said

    Societies, and indeed civilizations, have for thousands of years relied upon the citizen “civil servant” to administer the laws and manage the affairs of state. One only has to study the history of the ancients, China or Egypt or Greece or Rome. The majority of civil servants in those times were ultimately honest and worthy of their positions; the alternative was usually death.

    It is interesting and at the same time depressing to note the tone and content of Ms. Boychuk’s letter in reply to one seeking public information in relation to the expenditure of taxpayer monies by present day civil servants.
    Somehow she seems to be prepared to do us a favour, to the extent permissible by the Municipal Act, in return for which over $1,000.00 is required. The attached fee table indicates that someone, or many someones, examined all the relevant files to determine exactly (or approximately) how long it would take to produce the material requested under the Freedom of Information Act, some 4 1/2 months ago. And to further state that much of what has been requested might be exempt, also under the Municipal Act. Not being expert in this matter renders an appropriate comment impossible, but if this were any of the above-mentioned ancient civilizations nothing more might need to be said.

    And, no doubt, any one of a half dozen political hacks had their input into this search, probably also including those of the legal profession, whether staff or extra-curricular.

    This whole matter is an abomination for which the taxpayers of Aurora should simply say: ‘ENOUGH!’

    This FOI request is not going to go away or simmer gently on the back burner. Unless a complete accounting has been provided prior to the 14th day of May – 44 days from fee payment – it is possible that legal options will be considered, either under the Municipal Act itself, or in the courts.

    And that is just the beginning. There is an election coming up in less than six months, and every one of these questions will be asked over and over and over on the blogs and in the press. Failure to provide satisfactory answers will be treated as contempt of the citizenry.

    The Romans knew how to run an empire, which they did for many hundred years. Morris is incapable of administering the affairs of a small town of 53,000.

    • Guy Poppe said

      I understand the frustration by not having a speedy response to an FOI request and furthermore being charged a fee. I’ve been there.

      However, these requests have nothing to do with council.

      They do not decide what is to be released and the attendant cost. In fact, it would be legally inappropriate to get involved in the request.

    • Knowledgeable in Aurora said

      Mr. Poppe:

      Your statement “However, these requests have nothing to do with council. They do not decide what is to be released and the attendant cost. In fact, it would be legally inappropriate to get involved in the request.” may be technically correct, however, do not for a minute think that certain members of this Council are not doing exactly that.

    • someone who loves this town more than politics said

      Guy,

      I think you may have missed the source of the frustration here.

      Perhaps if we had an “open” and “transparent” government that was forthcoming with this information (you know the one that was heavily campaigned for but never materialized) citizens wouldn’t have to go through the process of filing for FOI requests.

      As for being “legally inappropriate” a better term could not be used to sum up this Mayor and council.

      It has been pointed out numerous times that the mayor and members of council have interfered with, and provided direction to town staff even though they have sworn an oath not to.

    • Augustinius said

      Dear Mr. Poppe:

      You sound as though you are fairly expert in this field. Could you share with us your professional experience?

      In our provincial and federal Parliamentary system the governing party’s leader appoints members to the Cabinet. Thus individual ministers are given the responsibility of overseeing a given department and are accountable for all its actions. If a “scandal” should occur it is the minister’s head that often rolls. One cannot argue that the senior civil service does what it wishes in administering its department. Taking the case of the Afghan detainees, it was necessary for the Speaker of the House of Commons to rule against the government, although Harper continues to imply that he will not accede to the Speaker’s ruling.

      In municipal politics, I have the impression from your last post that you are saying the politicians do not decide what is to be released. It is the elected officials who bear the responsibility of being answerable to the people who voted them into office. It is the elected officials who hire and fire civil servants. While Aurora councillors do not have departments in the same way that federal and provincial ministers do, they can act as a council and make decisions. I am not even sure if the Mayor acting alone has the authority and responsibility to decide on FOI requests. I cannot believe that the Manager of Administration/Acting Deputy Clerk can decide what to include, what to exclude and the costs for same.

      If you can expand upon and clarify this, we would all be better informed.

    • Richard Johnson said

      The town is legally required to respond to FOI’s within 30 days. Based on my experience they tend to wait until the final day possible and then they craft a clever response that will almost invariably skirt the issue or require the payment of exorbitant fees to be paid by the public in order to get an answer.

      Of course in my most recent FOI’s case, where I am concerned with asking a simple question as to if the senior and mid level staff turn-over we have witnessed this term is typical of recent councils, one would have to ask why the council isn’t asking the same question themselves, at no cost or trouble to me.

      One may also be forgiven for asking why the Mayor promised in 2006 to deliver a more transparent and responsive local government and a better working environment, if she had no intention or ability to deliver. To suggest that Council has no role to play in answering or being accountable to the questions being asked by the public strikes me as just plain wrong, even if they do (in my humble opinion) try to hide behind procedure and their apparently fluid interpretation of the code of conduct rule book.

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