Sunday, November 30, 2008

Region opposes more in-camera power

Region opposes more in-camera power
by NIck Moase/The Advance

Article online since November 26th 2008, 10:39

A resolution by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) was not well-received by the Region of Queens Municipality's Committee of the Whole and council.
Resolution #9A, passed this year, gives municipal governments more power to hold in-camera sessions.

In-camera items are currently used for negotiations and personnel issues. "Things that are not in the interest to be discussed publicly at that time," said Chris McNeil, Municipal Clerk with the Region of Queens.

Some examples he gave are union negotiations or when they are buying or selling land. The deals are made public when they are completed, but not while they are in negotiation.

The new resolution would allow council to enter in-camera for training and educating council members, intra-council issues, or if a majority of council members wanted it for an issue.


Counc. Peter Waterman added, "People want transparency, not closed doors."



Friday, November 28, 2008

Court rules FOI laws still apply -

Court rules FOI laws still apply

Case involved development authority's refusal to provide information


Fri. Nov 28 - 5:54 AM

Arm's-length government agencies cannot prevent the public from prying into their business by claiming to be exempt from freedom of information laws, Nova Scotia Supreme Court decided this week.

The ruling involved the South West Shore Development Authority, which had refused to release information that a Shelburne-area man had requested about how it was spending money. The authority argued it was outside the jurisdiction of freedom of information laws.

The man, Adelard Cayer, took the authority to court.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision, saying that the authority is an agency of the municipal government, which appoints its members and supports its operations financially. And since municipalities are subject to freedom of information laws, so are the agencies they establish and fund.

"If they're using our money, we have a right to find enough information from them to decide whether or not they're doing what we want them to do," said Darce Fardy, who founded the Right to Know Coalition after retiring in 2006 as the province's review officer for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

"This business of trying to do it in secret is just not on."


Full Article: <>

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Big loss for SWSDA chief on legal front... Appeals Court demands release of expense records... RDAs are public bodies says court... - Shelburne County Today

Big loss for SWSDA chief on legal front... Appeals Court demands release of expense records... RDAs are public bodies says court...


In what may be a far-reaching decision for access to public records from government agencies, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court published an opinion today in a two-year legal battle to obtain the expense claims of Frank Anderson, CEO of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) Act.


     The suit by Shelburne businessman Ed Cayer was filed after Anderson and his attorneys refused to abide by rulings by the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information Office and Cayer appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court where the matter was heard by Justice Suzanne M. Hood. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, Anderson and SWSDA have continued to claim that SWSDA is not a "public body" and that SWSDA and Anderson are somehow exempt from the FIOPOP legislation.


     In her 38-page decision from a trial de novo, Justice Hood spelled out her reasoning for the decision, which included opinions that, despite attempts to amend its by-laws to the contrary, SWSDA is and was always a public body under the Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act (MGA) and, in that, fully subject to FIOPOP standards.. She cited four court cases, including a recent, similar case involving the Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) in which the judge determined that it was "contrary to the purpose of the (FOIPOP) Act and access to information legislation in general to permit... [the evasion of] the statutory duty to provide residents with access to information..." 



Right to Know Coalition NS pleased with court decision

Right to Know pleased with court decision

By KELLY SHIERS Staff Reporter

Thu. Nov 27 - 5:53 AM

An advocacy group is heralding a Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision that the South West Shore Regional Development Authority [SWSDA] is a public body subject to the province's Freedom of Information Act.

"We're very pleased," said Darce Fardy

DarceDarce Fardy RTKCNS President - Image via Wikipedia

, president of the Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia.

"It's important because regional development authorities have great influence on what's happening in their communities and they're publicly funded.

"To have them feel that they're unaccountable to the public that they're serving and using public funds to do it, that they're not going to be open and accountable, . . . for me, I'm not a lawyer, I just said that doesn't make sense."

The coalition became involved in the legal wrangling when the South West Shore Regional Development Authority turned down an individual's request for records, citing, among its reasons, that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act doesn't apply to it, Mr. Fardy said.

When that person asked the court to review that finding, the Right to Know Coalition intervened.

An authority spokesman could not be reached Wednesday evening.


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A pledge to support the public’s right to know | OKG

A pledge to support the public's right to know

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

By Joey Senat

Perhaps more Oklahomans want their government conducted in the open than the politicians realized.

Voters on Nov. 4 elected 13 of the 25 candidates for statewide, legislative or county offices who had pledged to support the public's right to know at every opportunity. Among those elected are five metro-area members of the state House and Oklahoma County Commissioner-elect Brian Maughan, R-Oklahoma City.

In signing FOI Oklahoma Inc.'s Open Government Pledge, these Democrats and Republicans joined a national effort to spur public commitments to government transparency from candidates for president down to city council contests.


Senat is an associate journalism professor at Oklahoma State University and past president of FOI Oklahoma Inc.




Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BBC World Service

The Right to Know

Programme one

If knowledge is power, then the right to know is a crucial part of the balance between citizen and state. More and more countries are introducing freedom of information laws, which give citizens the right to see government-held information.

Over 70 states already have an FOI law of some kind. In another 50 or so, moves have begun to get one passed.

Freedom of information is well on the way to being seen as an essential prerequisite for a modern democracy. But there's almost always a backlash from politicians and officials. And throughout the world 'right to know' laws have become a subject of controversy and political conflict.

The first programme of two looks at the rapid spread of freedom of information and asks whether the many countries now introducing FOI laws are are really acting more in theory than in practice.

First broadcast on 8th August 2008

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FOIs - waste of your cash - The Weston Mercury

FOIs - waste of your cash - The Weston Mercury (UK)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

8:25 AM

FOIs - waste of your cash


18 November 2008


CONCERNED parish councillors in Backwell appealed to three people to explain why they are bombarding the council with FOI requests.


Speaking at a council meeting on Thursday, Councillor Bob Day said the requests were an 'utter waste of public money for no apparent reason' and he urged the three people involved to ask their questions at meetings instead.


Since January, Backwell Parish Council has had 26 FOI requests.


Cllr Day said: "As a parish council we have approximately 5,000 residents. Out of this number only one person, Mrs Lloyd, keeps asking each month for information about the parish council under this act, despite taking copious notes at every meeting. We've received 13 requests from her this year.


"She does not come back to us to say something is wrong so why does she persist and what is she trying to achieve?"


"The question I want to ask is why does she keep asking for this information?


"She attends regularly and has plenty of opportunities to ask questions but she doesn't.


"The information required takes a considerable amount of time for our clerk to find.


"It's time consuming and very costly. These costs are met by residents through the precept."


He added: "Furthermore, we have two other people from Nailsea who have put in 12 requests between them so far this year - Maureen Sage, the council's former clerk, and Tom Wilson, who used to be a councillor and chairman of the council. I would like to ask them the same questions.


"This money could be used to improve village life. It's for these people to stand up and come along to these meetings and tell us what they want."



Thursday, November 13, 2008

CUPE 15 sues Vancouver park board over in-camera decision

CUPE 15 sues Vancouver park board over in-camera decision

The second-last Vancouver park board meeting before the municipal election featured an in-camera session in which commissioners voted to re-classify 15 union positions at Vancouver community centres as higher-salaried management jobs. The Oct. 6 decision, according to CUPE 15, violates sections 492 and 493 of the Vancouver Charter.

CUPE 15 has now filed a B.C. Supreme Court challenge to the deal, which CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro said is the only way to gain transparency on an issue that he thinks should have been more open at the outset.

"These in-camera meetings are becoming the flavour of the year," he quipped. "Section 492 and 493 of the Charter effectively says, the park board can spend money, but it can only spend money that city council has approved and funded. Section 493 says the park board can't spend more than the city council has funded."

According to Faoro, the cost of the newly-created managerial positions could be as high as $300,000, putting taxpayers on the hook.

"We have them not yet telling the public about the impact. We have filed an FOI request asking for the in-camera minutes. We've had no response from the park board," he said.

"The NPA park board control made this a political issue. This is the kind of stuff where we think proper debate, respectful discussion would be helpful. But unfortunately, the last three years, it's been absolutely hopeless."

The Oct. 6 in-camera session contained a decision to "kick out or exempt" 15 CUPE members who work as community recreation coordinators, according to Faoro.

The 15 affected members worked at community centres across the city, including False Creek, Dunbar, Kitsilano, Sunset, Marpole-Oakrdige, Douglas, West Point Grey, Hastings, Thunderbird, Renfrew, Trout Lake, Mount Pleasant, Champlain Heights, Kensington, and Strathcona. Following the in-camera park board meeting, the coordinator positions were re-classified as new community recreation supervisor positions, and employees were required to decide whether to accept the new position by Nov. 4. Their new, re-classified positions will be effective Nov. 24.

"A decision like this is taking 15 of our positions out of our union, effecting long-term service employees," Faoro said. "We're taking this very seriously."

Jackie Wong reports for the Westender.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Radio Television News Directors Association Urges Obama to ‘Reverse Climate of Secrecy’

November 11, 2008 9:32 AM

RTNDA Urges Obama to 'Reverse Climate of Secrecy'

By Christopher Perez

With a current administration known for its secrecy on its way out, the Radio Television News Directors Association and other media organizations issued a letter to President-elect Barack Obama today, urging him to "take immediate steps to insure open government, allow access to information and strengthen the Freedom of Information Act."

Under what is being billed as the Sunshine Government Initiative, the RTNDA identified four steps it urged the president to follow to "reverse the climate of secrecy in the executive branch."

The group urged Obama to exercise discretion in withholding information under the Freedom of Information Act, to create an independent ombudsman to help citizens access their government, to ban unnecessary statutory exemptions from disclosure and for the administration to speak on the record in all statements about public policy and news important to the public.

"President-elect Obama has the opportunity to lead by example and guarantee open government for U.S. citizens," RTNDA President Barbara Cochran said in a statement. "By taking these steps to extend transparency, the new president can reverse a climate of government secrecy that has prevailed for too long."


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FOI is freeing our public organisations (UK)

FOI is freeing our public organisations


The Freedom of Information Act has contributed to a cultural shift in our public institutions, the information commissioner Richard Thomas told us this afternoon.


When the FOI act was first introduced is was something of "a fragile flower," he said, "exotic and unfamiliar" and perhaps resisted by parts of the public sector. Three years since the act came into effect - making us the 52nd country in the world to introduce an FOI law - it is largely a success, he said.


Sixty percent of requests are granted, and most of those are not the more glamourous requests that make the media but more "bread and butter" requests, said Thomas. "We have a right to know what the government is doing with our money in our public organisations, and that has resonated with the public," he said.




Sensitization Workshop on Freedom of Information Act Begins Today (Liberia)

Sensitization Workshop on Freedom of Information Act Begins Today

The Liberia Coalition for Free Expression with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) will today begin a series of activities aimed at further explaining to stakeholders the intent of the draft Freedom of Information Act currently before the National Legislature.


According to a release, this week's activities will also consider discussion of access to information as the underlying concept of the act.


The activities will include a meeting with Civil Society Organizations to discuss the draft Freedom of Information (FOI) Law and its implementation, as well as an Inter-ministerial seminar on the FOI.


According to the Coordinator of the Liberia Coalition for Free Expression, Calixte Hessou, cabinet ministers from select government ministries have been invited for the seminar, which is scheduled for Wednesday, November 12, 2008.


The sensitization campaign will also include a forum aimed at developing a policy regime that would guide the development of Community Radios (CRs) across the country.


The three events will be held in the Conference room of Corina Hotel in Monrovia.


The Liberia Coalition for Free Expression under the project: "Strengthening Media for Democratic governance," with funding from OSIWA, is in further support of ongoing advocacy activities by facilitating discourses among relevant functionaries of government and select urban and rural communities of Liberia whereby the people would get better understanding of the access to information.








Info management criticised


MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2008 17:26

The information commissioner has criticised a Whitehall department for the way it handles information requests.


Richard Thomas made a formal practice recommendation on Monday in relation to the Department for Communities and Local Government's (CLG) handling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.


The advice concerns the department's failures in carrying out internal reviews – required if someone complains about an answer to an FoI request - within 20 working days, or 40 days if there are exceptional circumstances.


An audit by the commissioner reported that there was "a significant backlog of internal reviews", some of which were more than 400 working days old, even after the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) had bought the problem to the department's attention.


In his advice, Thomas raised questions about the priority and resources that the department is devoting to information management and FoIs.


He also welcomed news that the department was looking at the backlog and resourcing, but said the department had "failed to demonstrate an appropriate level of commitment to improvement and failed to offer acceptable explanations for performance issues".


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Monday, November 10, 2008

P.E.I. tourism inspections going online

P.E.I. tourism inspections going online

Last Updated: Monday, November 10, 2008 | 6:40 AM ET Comments1Recommend3

CBC News

Visitors to P.E.I. will soon be able to check out how clean their hotel rooms are before they even step foot on the Island.

'Government spent a lot of time and money to meet this request.'— Janet Wood, Department of Tourism

The province will soon have inspection reports for all 1,600 hotels, bed and breakfasts, even campgrounds, available online.

All tourism accommodations on the Island must be licensed, and to be licensed they must be inspected. The reports contain information covering details from peeling paint on the ceiling to dirt under the sink.

The inspectors' reports were never made public until last year when CBC News filed a freedom of information request.

In October 2007, the Tourism Department delivered two full boxes to CBC. At the time, the department said it would soon put the reports online. But technical problems transferring the data delayed the project.

"Government spent a lot of time and money to meet this request," Janet Wood, manager of product development for the Department of Tourism, told CBC News last week.

"We're trying to set this site up in a professional, accessible way so that it will be easy for visitors, the media and the tourist industry to access this information."

A marketing advantage

While the department was initially reluctant to make the information public, Wood said it now sees it as an added marketing tool for P.E.I. tourism.

"I think we're going to be the first to have online inspection reports," said Wood.

"I know I received a call from Nova Scotia Bed and Breakfast Association, and they were interested in what it entailed and the possibility of requesting it being done in Nova Scotia. P.E.I. is generally the model we have now for inspection and licensing, is generally regarded as a best-practice model, and we are asked to provide advice to other provinces on a regular basis. I think we're going to be the first on this as well."

Wood said the inspection reports should be online with two weeks.


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Cayman Islands Freedom of Info Chief Named

Freedom of Info Chief Named

Published on Friday, November 7, 2008


By Tad Stoner


Jennifer Dilbert, longtime head of the Cayman Islands Government Office in the UK, will return to George Town at Christmastime to become the first Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner in the new year.

H.E the Governor Stuart Jack made the announcement on Wednesday morning (5 November), selecting Ms Dilbert from among three candidates, which included Complaints Commissioner John Epp and Tourism Attraction Board Chief Executive Gilbert Connolly.

"I am delighted. I have been in London for eight-and-a-half years, and it's a second home, but I miss my church and my family and my home. I'm coming home to my country and family, and I anticipate this will be a very exciting job," Mrs Dilbert, Cayman Islands Representative in the UK, told Cayman Net News.

She would return to George Town almost immediately, she said, to begin informal work, then return to London to pack, finally moving at the end of the year.

"I'm coming home on 16 November and will be doing some general work, then I'll come back to London to wind things up and I'll be back to the Cayman Islands around Christmas," she said.

Mrs Dilbert has been in government for more than 25 years, 15 of them as a financial-services supervisor. She headed the Financial Services Department, precursor to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA), where she was managing director in 2002.

She has managed the Cayman Islands Currency Board and the 1979 population census and was Executive Director of Deutsche Bank (Cayman) from 1996 to 1999. In 2005, Mrs Dilbert was named an MBE and is a Justice of the Peace.

Her biggest initial FOI challenge, she said, would be "starting off a new office. We just don't know how much time will be taken up, how the staff will function, the number of cases; we just don't know until we see how people comply and what is involved."

In the long term, Mrs Dilbert said, a greater concern was general awareness of the law and its requirements.





Friday, November 07, 2008

Gov't planning education programme on FOI bill - Barbados

Gov't planning education programme on FOI bill

Published on: 10/30/08.


GOVERNMENT is planning to undertake a "total education programme" on the draft Freedom of Information Bill which is intended to provide a general right of access to information in documents held by public authorities.

This was disclosed last Wednesday night by Senator Orlando Marville, chairman of the newly-appointed Governance Advisory Board, of which a six-member panel is hosting a series of town hall meetings on the draft bill.

"One of the intentions is to do a total education programme when once we have come to a proposal that we can put to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and Cabinet . . . ," Marville told another poorly attended meeting – this time at Deighton Griffith School, Kingsland, Christ Church.

"The idea of this education programme is not only for Information [Commissioners] but also for the public in general."

One of the functions of an information commissioner, as listed in the draft bill, is to undertake or promote the training of officials of ministries and prescribed authorities and other persons on the right to information and the effective implementation of the legislation.

Marville's comments were made in response to a query from a member of the audience, which numbered just over threescore, in relation to national security concerns over the release of certain documents.


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Calls to end FoI fees after drop in requests - Ireland

Calls to end FoI fees after drop in requests

By Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

Wednesday October 29 2008

FREEDOM of Information requests have declined by a staggering 42pc since fees were imposed five years ago, a new report concluded yesterday.

And last night there were calls to slash the "punitive fees" on representative groups, journalists and members of the public making applications under the Freedom of Information Act.