Town flouted access to information act

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After reading the item on access to information — relating to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) — in your paper a few days ago, I am writing this letter to share with your readers the experience I had with the town council of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s when I made an ATIPPA request that should have been straightforward.

In November 2012, I made an ATIPPA request regarding an accounts payable. I wanted to confirm something I had been told which disturbed me. It seems a claim filed against the town more than seven years ago was paid by the current council despite the fact that, based on legal advice provided, two previous councils had dismissed the claim as having no validity. It was information that any resident is entitled to see by going into the town office and asking to see it. For personal reasons, it was more feasible for me to ask for the information via ATIPPA. Hence the response I got was totally unexpected and illogical — “the town could not confirm or deny the existence of the information” I had requested.

I was, to say the least, disgusted with such a response. I consulted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and subsequently reported the matter to that office. It took several months and two letters from the privacy commissioner to the town, the last one telling them to reconsider and provide the information, pointing out that if they still refused to do so, I had the right to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

That letter, some months later, finally led to my receiving the information I had requested — the confirmation that this council had gone against two previous legal opinions and paid a town resident several thousand dollars.

For a council to refuse its town’s residents access to information to which they are entitled is a flagrant abuse of ATIPPA legislation. And, no, you cannot blame the town staff as they have more experience with ATIPPA than perhaps any other town in the province.


Emir Andrews

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s

Organizations: Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Supreme Court

Geographic location: Portugal Cove

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Recent comments

  • Eli
    August 21, 2013 - 10:51

    Too many do-gooders are just not legislators. For many would-be councillors and even MHA's, it's nothing more than a popularity contest. Bingo!, they get elected and then the feet of clay fall off....and there's a financial price for the taxpayers.

  • Where the Sun meets the Sea
    August 20, 2013 - 10:57

    The current council, under the direction of the current mayor, have caused more bad publicity for the town than it has endured in all of the years (combined) since it has been incorporated. We are now learning that the bad publicity is accompanied by price tag. In this case (this news item) the taxpayers of PCSP have paid money to an individual that it should not have. As a result of a recent court ruling the taxpayers of PCSP will have to pay for decisions that the current council should not have taken. On a list of highest taxed on the Avalon Peninsula, taxpayers of PCSP are already almost at the top. The unprofessional and idiotic blunders of the current council makes it a no brainer to bet against moving to the top. Hopefully the new council (after the September election) will begin to repair some of the damage to the towns reputation. However, that hope is contingent on the council being "new".