Rhino's Ramblings - The Decision Is In
By Robert Thomas Opinion - Commentary
It took months and a lot of work but the final review report from Ronald J. Kruzeniski, Q.C. Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner into a Freedom Of Information Request by MJ Independent has finally been released.
For those of you who read this column regularily or who are just tuning in here is a briefest of synopsis of what transpired right back to the beginning.
The review was conducted into a Freedom Of Information Request (FOI) by MJ Independent on August 29, 2018 into the dealings of the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre (MJCC). The FOI was submitted to the City of Moose Jaw as part of a look into the Cultural Centre after what was described as “the weirdest AGM ever.” An AGM which left many attendees scratching their heads asking what just happened here?
The August 29, 2018 FOI grew out of an earlier FOI request when documents released at that time in my opinion indicated there was more going on that had not been released.
An FOI in which an email from Councillor Dawn Luhning said there was outside manipulation of the media by Rubarb Productions.
“I think the Board needs to see this and the manipulation that is happening from RuBarb and their supporters,” Councillor Luhning wrote in an April 1, 2018 email in response to a list of “pointed questions” I sent her about what was happening at the MJCC.
That one sentence by Councillor Luhning gave me insight into something was gravely awry between RuBarb Productions and their landlord the MJCC. Additionally it showed that there may in fact be some attempted manipulation going on - or let us just call it politics - behind the scenes.
It was a political dynamic I touched upon when Councillor Crystal Froese - who I have been told by very good sources - advocated on behalf of RuBarb Productions Inc in-camera or behind closed doors.
For those of you who may think I am targeting a particular Council member I am not I am in reality searching for the truth.
The late August FOI did turn up some additional information which I found intriguing in the fact there is in my opinion a little bit more of an appearance of the intense secrecy. The FOI found an email from City Clerk Solicitor Myron Gulka-Tiechko where it was suggested to hold the special Tuesday evening in-camera Executive Camera meeting at City Hall instead of the Cultural Centre because the meeting had to be announced to the public but going in-camera at City Hall made it harder for non-attendees to guess what the meeting was about.
Holding the meeting at the MJCC would have alerted anyone watching closely who not only was attending but also the likely subject matter of the in-camera meeting.
So that leads us up to today and the release from the Privacy Commissioner’s report following the review by his office and although not damning the report is not in my opinion favourable to the City of Moose Jaw.
As part of the review report there are instances where it points out the City did not adequately provide enough evidence to exempt certain records as well as certain sections of the records released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The report also reccomends the City not only encourage but institute the use of dedicated e-mail accounts held on City servers for councillors as presently there was sufficient evidence in the review at least one councillor was using her personal e-mail account for City business purposes.
In another recommendation the Privacy Commissioner further recommends “release of all withheld responsive records to the Applicant including the financial statements of the third party.”
The review gives details of the in-camera Executive Meeting between Council and MJCC and that being at that meeting they discussed the finances of the Cultural Centre but at the same time there was no financial records provided to Executive Committee by Moose Jaw Cultural Centre Inc (MJCC Inc) although in my own opinion in all likelihood the meeting discussed RuBarb Productions Inc and their financial and other dealings with MJCC Inc.
The real question to be asked now will the City release any records and then which ones?
Will the City make changes to their email policy and abide by the Privacy Commissioner recommendations or will they simply continue business as usual?
Will Councl ultimately take a close look at the decison and follow its recommendations especially considering in October 2016 all of those elected at that time ran on a platform of more accessible government and less behind closed door secrecy they painted the previous administration with in very liberal coats?
We all need to remember all of the recommendations made by the Privacy Commissioner were to either release records the review found were not protected by the exemptions in Freedom Of Information legislation or in the case of emails to help ensure they comply with the Act to not only protect privacy but also allow access when requested.
Section 45 of LA FOIP provides that within 30 days after receiving a Report of the Commissioner, the head of the City of Moose Jaw shall make a decision to follow the recommendations of the Commissioner or any other decision that the head considers appropriate and give written notice to my office and to you and to the third party.
Then, within 30 days of receiving the head’s decision, MJ Independent will then have a right to appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench pursuant to sections 46 and 47 of LA FOIP.
Read the entire review below in its entirety.