ROTHENBURGER – We shouldn’t have to pay for politicians to give us FOI records
IT’S NOT EASY getting information out of City Hall. Nor is it fast, or cheap.
That is, if you’re applying for access to records under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
One of the reasons it’s not cheap is that the City charges for the time it takes mayor and council to provide the records. Yes, we must pay for elected folks to give us information.
This is based on FOI legislation that permits the City to charge fees to offset costs for producing the records.
When it comes to mayor and council, one might ask what costs there are to recover.
There’s no legislation that says the City must charge for their time but it chooses to do so.
Mayor and council don’t have employment contracts or defined hours of work, aren’t paid by the hour and don’t receive overtime. FOI fees go to the City, not to them. Responding to FOI applications doesn’t affect their other work.
They’re paid a stipend in recognition of their public service — part of that public service is providing information to the public.
I made that argument in an FOI application last December.
Mel Rothenburger is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He has served as mayor of Kamloops, school board chair and TNRD director, and is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Thanks, Mel. The next time I see you in person in Safeway, I’ll give a donation to you towards the cost of researching this editorial.
Re: FOI requests – I have actually done one. I was very fortunate that it was deemed to be in the publics interests.
I am of two minds re the costs. As a tax payer who may want a FOI request I want it free. As a taxpayer who recognizes that it takes staff time to fulfill the request a fee to me seems like a good idea. I wonder if the cost reduces the number of FOI requests that may over run the system and require a FOI request department.
As a former mayor I cannot believe that you do not think that councilors time, above and beyond their council work, has value. The work they put into the FOI request takes away from their council time.
Re: the mayor going home. Does he not have an office where he could go to do work for the city while he is waiting to re-enter a meeting after recusing himself. I understood that he is paid to be a full time mayor.
Discouraging public scrutiny hence less accountability, less transparency and less democracy. No wonder cynicism keeps rising. The elected representatives lament attacks from the public but can we really blame the public? Don’t the representatives see the irony and counterproductive behaviour?
I think the reason my be in your reply. “Lament attacks from the public”. When did public questioning and investigation become “attacks”. I go to public meetings and raise concerns and issues and try to get answers and advocate for change. But I truly hope I am not being seen to attacking people.