Council Votes To Accept Commissioner's Recommendations
By Robert Thomas
A request for review of a Freedom of Information request (FOI) by MJ Independent into the City's relationship with the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre has lead to Council approving policy changes as well as releasing additional omitted and redacted information initially withheld.
The request for review came as a result of two separate FOIs.
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The first request asked for all documents between the City and the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre (MJCC). The initial request came back there was no such correspondence. Once an Early Resolutions Officer stepped in it was determined there were approximately 25,000 documents. By working through this offer the City released approximately 100 documents.
SEE RELATED - Anatomy of a media request
The second more defined FOI request was made for email correspondence between the MJCC and Councillor Dawn Luhning when the first FOI showed the Councillor had been using her personal Gmail account for City business.
After the second request had information MJ Independent felt missing or improperly redacted a formal months long Request For Review was requested and granted by the Office of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Speaking on the issue City Clerk/Solicitor Myron Gulka-Tiechko said initially some information was redacted because it was “part of the Clerk’s duties to protect personal information under the same (FOI) legislation…so there were portions of the report which were redacted…that the applicant to offense to and made his appeal.”
“On review the Privacy Commissioner has determined there were certainly a couple of things we could have released and put that in the content of the report,” Gulka-Tiechko said.
The items set to be released are the MJCC financials discussed at a separate private in-camera Executive Committee meeting with the MJCC board.
It also needs to be noted the City late in the review changed its reasoning on the reason why details of the meeting were not being released. The Privacy Comissioner's Office rejected this late change due to the fact no written information was provided to the City for making the declaration.
Gulka-Tiechko said “the main focus of the Privacy Commissioner's review was there are City councillors that use personal emails to conduct business. They drew their attention to that practice and recommended we curtail that practice to insure the City records were maintained in an accurate form.”
The use of a City issued e-mail account was seen as bolstering security.
It needs to be noted Council held an in-camera discussion of a complaint made by MJ Independent about Councillor Luhning using her personal email account in the US while on an AMTRAK train as potentially exposing our information to others. The in-camera meeting of that complaint rejected the privacy issues raised something the Privacy Commissioner said the opposite to by recommending conducting City of Moose Jaw business on private email accounts.
In a question from Councillor Crystal Froese the Clerk/Solicitor said there would be exceptions to what would need to be on a City issued e-mail account.
“There are some exceptions such as personal views or more accurately political views a councillor may have in exchange with a constituent or something of that nature,” he said, adding “For the bulk of the business that the City transact because it is based on City budget allocations and decisions of City Council” it should be on a City issued e-mail address on City servers.
Councillor Brian Swanson said he was “the guilty party with respect to the use of personal email and I support the recommendation of the Privacy Commissioner when it comes to City business.”
Despite his supporting the three recommendations Councillor Swanson felt people should be able to contact him with their concerns by personal email and only when and if the concern became official would all future correspondence be by the City issued e-mail account.
“For contacting me as an individual councillor I believe I should have the right to be contacted on my personal e-mail by any citizen of Moose Jaw who wishes to do so.
Councillor Luhning stated she disagreed with Councillor Swanson.
“I don't think there is any gray line in this. If somebody contacts us with regards to City business it is City business.”
Councillor Luhning said she had been the subject of three FOIs in the last two years.
It needs to be noted MJ Independent has only used an FOI twice and is unaware of a third FOI, it’s content or who made it. MJ Independent submitted FOIs on Councillor Luhning because she is Council's representative on the MJCC board and is to report back to Council to help keep the MJCC board accountable.
“City business is City business and we should be under the same scrutiny.”
In two separate motions Council voted to release the information (not yet fully done due to the Third Party MJCC Board having the ability to object through the Court of Queen’s Bench).
A second motion to rescind the previous 2017 resolution to allow the use of private e-mails passed 6-1 with Councillor Swanson opposed.