Legal Matters- a response

A submission from Mr. Daniels, also published in the June issue of the Mud Creek News.


David A. Daniels

Finally, here is the blacked-out part of the Mayor’s letter:

On behalf of Council, I express the confidence and satisfaction we have with the service and direction you are providing this municipal unit. A Performance Appraisal will be conducted in May 2007.”

The article in the Mayor’s Newsletter states in the first paragraph that portions of the Stead-letter were not provided to Mr. Becker in response to his dated May 21, 2008 FOIPOP request because “they contain[ed] personal information in the nature of personnel evaluations …”.

Not so. The response letter Mr. Becker received to his FOIPOP request stated that the blacked-out portion of the Stead-letter would not be provided because it was “not relevant” which is not a reason listed in the statute to deny access.

The unnamed author of the article also states that “personnel evaluations [are] presumed to be an invasion of a third party’s personal privacy, which are therefore not to be produced by the Town under the applicable FOIPOP provisions.”

Not quite right again.  Even assuming Stead’s ending comments – see above – were a “personnel evaluation”, it is not automatic that the sought after material should NOT be made public.  Rather the responsible officer, in this case, Mr. Brian Porter, had to determine under the law “whether a disclosure of personal information constitutes an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy, the responsible officer shall consider all the relevant circumstances listed in Section 480 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA). It is hard to conceive that Mayor Stead’s above expression of “..confidence and satisfaction..” would constitute an “unreasonable invasion” of Mr. Brideau’s privacy.

In the second paragraph of the article the author makes the statement that Mr. Becker “[a]pparently being unsatisfied with the process required of all people who seek such review . . .”. What the author fails to mention is the time Mr. Becker had waited to receive a “recommendation” from the Review Officer.  Who would not be unsatisfied after waiting one and a half years, and then being told it might take another half a year or more?

In describing the first court case, the author states: “Mr. Becker had simply not looked in the correct place for Council approval of these decisions [concerning Mr. Brideau’s contract] prior to bringing his court application.” In a similar way, the author states in the next paragraph: “Given Mr. Becker’s apparent lack of understanding that the amendments to the CAO’s contract had been duly approved by Town Council each year in the annual budget process.”

I share Mr. Becker’s lack of understanding. Perhaps the author would be kind enough to refer me to those portions of past years budgets where I would be put on notice concerning Mr. Brideau’s salary and its increases, and the increases to his pension benefits.

The simple fact is that but for Mr. Becker’s initial FOIPOP request the public would not have a clue concerning Mr. Brideau’s salary and other employment benefits.  It certainly was not made public in the Town’s budget or any other public forum.

“The Town has incurred legal costs as the result of Mr. Becker’s court application. . .” That’s one way to look at it.  Here is another: If the then sitting Town Council had properly adopted Mr. Brideau’s contract in public, as it should have done back in 2008, then the Court proceeding and the costs would not have been necessary.

The Honourable Justice Warner stated during the hearing on Jan. 7, 2010 in part: “And I’m not so sure that someone can enter a contract without it being approved in a manner at the end of the day that is on a public record.” (My underlining.)

In the second lawsuit, based upon two new FOIPOP requests, Mr. Becker sought the blacked-out part of the Mayor’s letter and a copy of the “Agreement” between the Town and Irving Oil concerning the transfer of Clock Park to the Town.

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