Nfld. & Labrador

Paradise destruction of records 'careless' and 'negligent': information commissioner

The province’s transparency watchdog has issued some stern words to the Paradise town council for destroying records after someone asked for them under access to information laws.

Town destroyed 2017 election records, and erased surveillance video from rink

Paradise town council has been criticized by Newfoundland and Labrador's information and privacy commissioner over its handling of two recent open-records requests. (CBC)

The province's open-records watchdog has rebuked the Paradise town council for destroying records after someone asked for them under access to information laws.

Information commissioner Donovan Molloy said the town's actions in one instance were "careless," while in a second case they were "grossly negligent."

In a statement, the Paradise town council said it is "in the process of reviewing its policies and procedures in light of the commissioner's recommendations and will take the steps necessary to ensure it continues to follow the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act."

Election records shredded

The first request was for records related to the 2017 municipal election in the town.

The council said it destroyed those records, in accordance with the Municipal Elections Act.

Molloy noted that council destroyed some records that weren't covered by that part of the law.

Donovan Molloy is Newfoundland and Labrador's information and privacy commissioner. (Submitted photo)

"While there is insufficient evidence to find that the town destroyed these records with the intent to evade the access request, the destruction was careless at best," Molloy wrote.

According to his report, on the day the records were shredded, the town emailed the person to say they could be destroyed.

"Obviously, this information was practically useless to the complainant if he wished to institute a legal proceeding to postpone destruction of the records," Molloy's report noted.

Video surveillance footage erased

The second request was for town video surveillance footage at the Paradise Double Ice Complex.

The town said no, because of personal privacy reasons, even though no one actually looked at the video to see if there was anyone identifiable in it.

In future similar situations it may be difficult to accept that the town was merely negligent when it either destroys or fails to preserve responsive records.- Donovan Molloy

In fact, weeks before sending that response, the footage was erased from the system, earlier than called for under town policy because the system didn't have the capacity to store it that long.

Molloy again did not conclude that the town intentionally allowed this to happen, but called the failure to preserve these records "grossly negligent."

"In future similar situations it may be difficult to accept that the town was merely negligent when it either destroys or fails to preserve responsive records," Molloy wrote.

He noted that it is an offence under the law to destroy records with the intent to evade an access request.

The commissioner recommended that the council revise its policy on destroying election records, and comply with its video surveillance policy by making sure there's enough storage capacity to preserve those recordings.

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