Sask. privacy commissioner asks for investigation of northern village of Pinehouse
Commissioner accuses village of obstruction, says information has been inadequate, delayed
Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner wants the provincial government to intervene in a five-year battle between his office and the northern village of Pinehouse.
In a report, Commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski accused the village of a sustained campaign of obstruction.
"With the first and second review of the Village by my office, my office tended to believe that the village just did not understand the legislation or the process," he wrote.
"By the 13th review report, it is becoming very clear with the Village that the mayor and the village administrator are attempting to obstruct the lawful operation of LA FOIP [Local Authority Freedom of Information and Privacy]."
For five years, the office said the village has either not provided information or given delayed, inadequate information to its requests.
Kruzeniski wrote that all municipalities in the province must comply with Freedom of Information requests, with no exceptions. He wants to see the Ministry of Government Relations to start an investigation into what he calls the village's obstruction.
"No town or village should be able to flagrantly disregard or obstruct the operation of a provincial statute," he wrote.
Writer D'arcy Hande is behind the requests in question. He first started filing information requests in 2013 for an article he was writing on possible connections between the village council and the Nuclear Waste Management Association.
He said the latest request had to do with information on salary and expense claims for the village's councillors and mayor.
"I'd put in this FOI request back in August, expecting that this information would be accessible," he said. "That hasn't happened."
The latest report details how the village said it received the request October 12, but evidence shows Canada Post delivered the letter August 17.
It goes on to state the office assistant had been told to stop working on processing the request, due to the village administrator being out of the country and the assistant apparently not having the authority to work on the file.
The Ministry of Government Relations says it will meet with the commissioner to discuss his findings next week.
"It's always troubling when we hear concerns from the privacy commissioner," said Minister Warren Kaeding. "We're taking it very seriously."
Kaeding said his office was in close contact with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, as well as New North, about municipalities that may not be following the rules, such as the RM of McKillop, which now has a province-appointed supervisor after alleged fiscal mismanagement.
"We have relatively new conflict of interest guidelines, relatively new parameters we have asked municipalities to participate in," said Kaeding. "I think we're seeing the result of those relatively new processes in place."
On Thursday, Hande received a call from the commissioner's office, saying the documents should be on their way.
Other than asking for an investigation, the commissioner recommends a policy be created on handling requests in a timely manner.
The village of Pinehouse told CBC the mayor and village administrator were not available for comment.