White Rock chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill says the city is examining options for appealing an order from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to release information to FOI applicant Ross Buchanan.
On April 12, OIPC adjudicator Chelsea Lott ordered the city to release information that Buchanan had been seeking relating to the council decision to purchase White Rock’s water utility from Epcor, rather than connect to Metro Vancouver water.
In a summary of findings of her written inquiry, Lott found that the city “was not authorized or required to refuse access to the information it had withheld” – rejecting city claims that releasing the information would harm the financial and economic interests of the city, violate public body confidences, or harm third-party business interests.
But Monday Bottrill told Peace Arch News there is “no question that we are looking at it – some errors were made.”
“We might be looking at a judicial review,” he added.
OIPC communications director Erin Beattie said in an email to PAN last week that the city has a time limit of 30 days from the date the order was issued to petition for a judicial review.
“On occasion, our orders are judicially reviewed,” she said, noting that OIPC orders are binding on a public body – up to BC Supreme Court level – and there has never been a case where a public body has refused to comply with an order.
Without a review, White Rock has until May 29 to comply.
Bottrill said a statement from Lott – that White Rock “did not have the statutory authority” to close a June 10, 2013 meeting in which council decided to acquire the utility – was made in the context that she did not know whether a meeting had actually taken place on that date in question.
In Lott’s lengthy summary, however – in which she repeatedly takes the city to task for “unsupported assertions” presented with little or no evidence – she said the city had not addressed whether it met the requirements of section 92 of the Community Charter to “even hold a closed meeting” on that date.
“I do not have any meeting minutes before me, nor do I have evidence from the meeting participants about the conduct of the meeting, which could permit me to make a finding regarding section 92,” she writes.
“The withheld information in the records does not assist White Rock on this point either. In the circumstances, I find that White Rock did not have the statutory authority to close the meeting to the public.”