3 Muskrat Falls contractors file court action to block release of pay info
They say disclosure would cause them ‘undue financial harm’
Three senior managers working on the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject are going to court to keep the public from knowing how much they are paid — information the provincial government says should be released.
In documents filed at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court last month, the contractors said disclosing that information would be an "unreasonable invasion" of personal privacy.
The three managers — Paul Harrington, the Lower Churchill project director for generation; business services manager Lance Clarke; and project controls manager Tanya Power — have not been hired as employees of Nalcor Energy, but instead as contractors through the consulting companies that they own.
They declined comment, through their lawyer.
In court documents, they say disclosing their names and the names of their companies, along with other details of their contracts with Nalcor, "would not serve the public interest" and would cause them "undue financial harm."
Those court filings came in response to access-to-information requests by CBC News.
According to Nalcor, contractors in two other Muskrat Falls management roles did not go directly to court to stop the release of pay details, but instead complained to the province's privacy commissioner.
Six others did not object to the financial information being released.
In a statement to CBC News, Nalcor confirmed it is not paying the legal fees for these contractors in relation to these matters.
The energy corporation said it will make submissions to the privacy commissioner and the court which support its position that the information can be disclosed under the access-to-information law.
Change in law governing Nalcor
The province's Liberal government vowed changes to enhance transparency at Nalcor last year, in the wake of critical media reports by The Telegram and CBC News.
At the time, Premier Dwight Ball said secrecy related to the compensation for contractors didn't pass his "smell test."
- Pay packets and privacy: Why Nalcor says contractor compensation at Muskrat Falls is off limits
- Nalcor's refusal to disclose contractor rates 'doesn't pass my smell test,' says premier
Later that fall, the province's privacy commissioner found the law governing Nalcor trumped access-to-information legislation. That decision put those pay details for contractors off-limits to the public.
In response, Ball said the law would change.
"This is a Crown corporation; this is public funds," Ball told reporters in early December.
"And I think the people of this province would have a right to know, they have a right to know, how their money is being spent."
- Law protecting Nalcor contractor salary secrets will change, Dwight Ball says
- Law keeps Muskrat Falls contractor pay secret
Six months later, the Liberal government proceeded with those legislative changes.
"It is neither necessary nor appropriate to keep the cost of these independent contractors secret from the public," Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady told the legislature in late May.
After those amendments passed, CBC News re-filed requests for contractor compensation that had previously been redacted.
Nalcor agreed to release the information.
But three of those requests resulted in applications to Supreme Court, for judicial review of the decision.
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