In May 2016, Chatham-Kent administration submitted a report to council on costing to amalgamate private land ambulance with Chatham-Kent’s current fire department. Three proposals were provided council and the taxpayer, referred to as proposals A, B and C.
Administration emphasized and encouraged council to except proposal C, which would have eliminated private land ambulance businesses and amalgamated ambulance with CK fire to form one large fire-paramedic department, which then would have seen a probable doubling of the fire department size and budget while eliminating a private-run business.
In 2016, we asked Chatham-Kent to provide us with financial costing details to support the grand total figures displayed on the appended spreadsheet. Additionally, we asked a number of council members, at that time, for detailed financial data to verify the grand total figures. No one seemed to have such figures. Chatham-Kent failed to disclose supporting financial data to verify the grand total figures each for the A, B and C proposals on the appended spreadsheet.
We subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Request with Ontario’s privacy commission. Chatham-Kent’s administration and legal department challenged our FOIR by submitting a 16-page, 77-item defence to the privacy commission as to why Chatham-Kent does not have to release the requested information.
The actions by Chatham-Kent and its the legal department proved the requested information existed by defending not to disclose the same. How can grand total figures of anything exist, especially to the dollar, without accurate and comprehensive costing to support such grand totals?
Our office countered CK’s defence by submitting an equally lengthy challenge showing why the requested information was not exempt under privacy legislation. The privacy commission ruled in our favour that the requested information was not exempt and in May 2018 provincial directive MO- 3613 was issued ordering Chatham-Kent to disclose the requested information.
So far, the municipality has failed to disclose the requested information. Instead, it has disclosed everything except the requested financial details that would support the grand total figures displayed on the appended spreadsheet.
Chatham-Kent has used the rationale it did a reasonable search for the information. Since CK has submitted information that is non-related to the requested records, we now submit that Chatham-Kent is either being intentionally evasive in defying the May 2018 order, or it never had the financial data supporting their grand total figures.
Council should be made aware of the enormous time, resources and tax dollars spent by municipal administration fighting to not disclose information the privacy commission had proved to be of taxpayer ownership. This was a simple request but Chatham-Kent turned it into a six-year battle.
It is imperative that council take appropriate action now since institutions are only required to maintain records for seven years.
We expect to receive the requested information in due course. If it turns out such information is not available, we request council to take appropriate action involving administrative behaviour.
John K. Cryderman