Digging deeper into report on FOIP issues in Lacombe

Regarding the article written by Paul Cowley appearing on the front page of the Red Deer Advocate dated Dec. 26, 2014: FOIP handling under review.

Regarding the article written by Paul Cowley appearing on the front page of the Red Deer Advocate dated Dec. 26, 2014: FOIP handling under review.

This article dealt with the handling of a FOIP request made by the Lacombe Taxpayer’s Association. In the article, Norma MacQuarrie, the chief administrative officer of the City of Lacombe, was quoted as saying that the privacy commissioner’s letter (report), “demonstrates that the city acted as we should have in how the request was managed.”

In fact, what the privacy commissioner’s ruling stated, in part, was the following:

— The public body, (the CAO of Lacombe, MacQuarrie, and/or the City of Lacombe) did not meet its time limits as required under Section 11 of the FOIP Act.

— The public body did not properly rely on Section 30 and 31 of the FOIP Act as no third parties were actually consulted.

— The public body did not seek the commissioner’s permission to take a longer extension as per the provisions under the FOIP Act.

—It was improper for the public body to rely on Section 30 or Section 31 of the FOIP Act to extend the due date.

—The public body inappropriately ruled on the computer programing rate of up to $20 per a quarter of an hour. It should have only used the standard rate of up to $6.75 per quarter hour, as set out in schedule 2.

— In other cases before the privacy commissioner’s office, he could not find a single instance of a public body citing the “computer programing” rate to perform a search and retrieval of email, regardless of the complexity and scope of the access request.

— The public body did not properly assess the fees charged to the applicant — both in terms of the hourly rates and the amount of time the public body claims was involved.

— The public body charged the applicant for the amount of time spent preparing and handling the records for “reviewing” the records to determine what, if anything, should have been severed. This is not an activity that a public body may bill for.

— The public body failed to provide the applicant with notice, as required under Section 8(1) and 8(2) of the FOIP Act.

— The public body did not properly assess the fees charged to the applicant.

—The public body charged 25 cents per page for photocopying, which was unreasonable.

—The public body inaccurately charged the applicant for “supervising the examination of records.”

The city charged the Lacombe Taxpayer’s Association $4,058.98 for the FOIP request. According to the privacy commissioner, the charge should have been $180.26. The city agreed to refund the difference upon the recommendation of the privacy commissioner.

How MacQuarrie can say with a straight face that the city acted as they should have in how the request was managed is beyond comprehension.

H.R. Hunt

Lacombe

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