LETTERS: Lesson missed in FOI audit

Editor: Re: City’s reaction to FOI audit catches mayor off-guard, Nov. 28.

Editor:

Re: City’s reaction to FOI audit catches mayor off-guard, Nov. 28.

Despite receiving the desire-for-change message from the electorate, White Rock city staff still persist in treating the residents as the enemy – as they did before.

City manager Dan Bottrill had authorized a statement publicly designating residents’ FOI requests as “frivolous” and/or “vexatious,” and his only concession to change was limited to saying it should not have used those precise words in what I saw as an attempt to ignore the findings and gloss over city’s pattern of illegal behaviour (Audit criticism blames on ‘vexatious’ FOIs, Nov. 23). So, business as usual as far as Bottrill is concerned.

To add insult to injury, it’s not clear who wrote the first response statement posted on the city website that was subsequently modified after intervention by the new mayor, Darryl Walker. Even the second version leaves a lot to be desired, considering the findings of the audit.

The Audit & Compliance Program of the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for BC (OIPC) last month highlighted that the City of White Rock failed to meet legislated timelines in 46 per cent of sampled files and effectively “punished” persistent residents with more lengthy delays than others.

Furthermore, White Rock took an average of 22 days longer to respond to requests by recurrent applicants; took an average of 13 business days to forward requests to city departments – a short walk down the hall – to begin the search for records; and did not retain all relevant documentation in 26 per cent of sampled files.

Clearly, the city has been found both guilty of contravention of B.C. law and wanting with respect to handling FOI requests.

The city needs to recognize its wilful culpability over the FOI affair and apologize to all its residents for its egregious behaviour towards its own citizens over the last eight years. The city needs to guarantee that FOI requests will treated fairly and fully in accordance with Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Some significant “spring cleaning” of city hall will be required to fulfil the pledges and promises made by the incoming mayor and council and the wishes of the electorate.

Keith Knightson, White Rock

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