NewsNow document request should proceed: MMAH

Joanne McDonald
The clock is ticking on NewsNow’s Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request, according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

The request was submitted to town hall on Friday, June 12, seeking a copy of the investigator’s report into the conduct of CAO Harry Schlange.

In a letter to NewsNow publisher Mike Williscraft, dated June 15, clerk Sarah Kim said any response would be delayed due to a provincial Order which, she claimed, “put a halt on all time period limitations” for Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests.

However, Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing spokesman Chris Crawford says that is a non-starter.

“The suspension order referred to (in Kim’s letter) is Ontario regulation 73/20, made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA / emergency order). This regulation suspends the limitation periods or any time period within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or in any intended proceeding in Ontario for the duration of the provincial emergency,” said Crawford.

“Although this emergency order suspends the timelines associated with the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) Office’s oversight obligations of Ontario’s access and privacy legislation, it does not apply to the legislative timelines for processing FOI requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) that applies to institutions, e.g. ministries, municipalities, hospitals, agencies, etc.”

So while Kim’s letter on the FOI request further states, “Therefore, although we will try our best to process the requests in a timely manner, it will take longer than usual,” Williscraft said there is no justification for any delay.

Simply put, Williscraft said, the Town needs to deal with the request in a normal, timely fashion.

“As I noted last week, it is likely there are names in there which could easily be redacted to keep identities of staff confidential. The issue is not the names of staff, rather, the professionalism of the Town’s top staff member is key to public confidence. As such, the report should be made public as part of council’s transparency and accountability mandate,” said Williscraft.

“The ministry information is clear, the reasoning suggesting a lengthy delay does not apply.”

The lengthy investigation was intiated after a series of contentious events in early February which included Mayor Jeff Jordan putting Schlange on administrative leave, four councillors not attending a special meeting of council called by Jordan and then five councillors (Randy Vaine, Dave Sharpe, Kevin Ritchie, John Dunstall and Dave Kadwell) voting to reinstate Schlange. At the same meeting, council voted to approve having an investigation done into a series of allegations from several town staff.

The investigation culminated in a report into findings by John Curtis which was provided to council at a special meeting June 4.

A June 19 press release issued by the Town states, in part, “The report set out five (5) recommendations, all of which were unanimously accepted and adopted by Council. The Town will be proceeding with all the recommendations through its legal counsel. The investigation has now concluded and neither the Council nor Town staff will be providing any further comment in respect thereof.

Council will work together with staff to ensure that the Town continues to be a safe work environment and that the municipality will strive to be the best that it can be. Council is committed to its vision for the Town and fully supports its CAO, and in implementing the Town’s strategic priorities to ensure that vision is achieved.”

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