Transparency and openness at Governor Simcoe Square have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a note to Norfolk council, deputy clerk Kevin Klingenberg reported that a significant backlog of freedom-of-information requests has accrued as a result of the pandemic, staff re-alignments in response to the same, and competing work demands.
In his memo, Klingenberg says freedom-of-information requests received between Feb. 17 and May 14 have sat dormant until recently. Klingenberg, who serves as Norfolk’s FOI officer, plans to reactivate these applications and issue requests across the municipal corporation for relevant documents.
“We have developed a plan to manage the backlog and have dedicated staff to process the requests,” Klingenberg said.
“Senior leadership is notified clearing the backlog will have impacts on all county divisions. Some departments will be affected more than others. Clerk’s department staff will be issuing a series of search memos to respective county departments after issuing no search memos for the past three months.”
Klingenberg served for a couple months earlier this year as Norfolk’s acting clerk following the departure of former clerk Andy Grozelle. Grozelle’s replacement — Teresa Olsen — recently assumed her duties in Norfolk, allowing Klingenberg to return to the dormant files.
Klingenberg says backlogged FOI requests will be processed in the order they were received. He says applicants can appeal to Ontario’s Information Privacy Commissioner after 30 days if a municipality does not respond to a request.
Klingenberg adds the processing duration for FOI requests at Norfolk County received after May 12 could be three to four months due to the current backlog. He expects the backlog to be cleared and normal processing practices to return this fall.