Do Hamilton City Councillors prioritize the appointment of their personally connected friends over more qualified Hamiltonians in determining the members of the City’s Agencies, Boards, and Committees (ABCs)?
The Public Record is setting out to determine if this is or is not the case.
On December 20, 2018, I filed a Freedom of Information request to the Hamilton City Hall asking for a list, in Excel or CSV format, of public information regarding ABC applicants.
- Applicant Name;
- Applicant Ward of Residence (new ward boundaries); and
- ABC’s applied for.
As is the practice of the City of Hamilton, the City Clerk will wait 30 days prior to mailing, via Canada Post, their response to TPR’s formal application under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The MFIPPA Act requires municipalities to respond to formal requests within 30 days. Lettermail post marked on the 30th day meets the minimal requirements of the Act. Whereas other municipalities will communicate by email, Hamilton increases FOI costs and delays by use of Canada Post.
Hamilton City Council operates the worst ranked municipal freedom of information office in Canada, as measured by the Newspapers Canada annual FOI audit.
The Public Record is preparing for a likely quasi-judicial battle for this public information; as Canada’s worst municipal freedom of information office, the City of Hamilton commonly denies requests with frivolous claims of exception.
TPR’s request has been tailored to ensure an eventual release order from the Ontario Information and Privacy Commission. Here the reasons why the information requested must be released under MFIPPA.
- Applicant Name: In applying for a public position on a public agency, board, or committee, the persons applying have agreed to the release of their name. The name of an applicant in this context does not reveal any private information about them.
Applicant Age: The City of Hamilton requests the age of applicants, and judges applicants based upon age – some committees are age exclusive. The City of Hamilton Strategic Plan states that the City will seek to have age diversity among its ABC appointments. There is an overriding public interest in measuring if the City of Hamilton it meets the goals of its strategy plan. (There are strong arguments that asking for the age of applicants – instead of a declaration from applications they legal adults age 18 or old – may violate the Ontario Human Rights Act).
- CORRECTION: The City of Hamilton application form only asked for confirmation that individuals are age 18 or older, I regret my error.
- Applicant Ward of Residence: The Strategic Plan speaks to engaging Hamiltonians from across all wards of the city, and therefore there is a public interest in knowing if the City is meeting this goal. The argument the City is likely to advance that this information violates privacy is that addresses are personal information, and that providing the ward of residency would reveal too much information about an applicant. This would be a frivolous complaint, there are tens of thousands of addresses in each ward, and narrowing down a person’s residency to among tens of thousands is not personal information.
- Committees applied for: In applying, applicants agreed to the public knowing if they are appointed to serve on a agency, board, or committee. There is no privacy reason in MFIPPA which makies what government position people apply for personal private information. There is an overriding public interest in evaluating Council’s decision making in the selection of those who carry out public governance; and knowing which candidates Council determined to not appoint is vital to confidence in the process.
What The Public Record is Not Requesting
The Public Record is not requesting any personal information, I am not requesting copies of any documents submitted by the candidates, not requesting the minutes of decision making of the Selection Committee, and not challenging the decision of the Selection Committee to exercise Section 239 of The Municipal Act to make its decisions in closed session.
Simply put, the MFIPPA request is to determine if the concerns regarding possible disqualification of qualified persons for political reasons from serving on public agencies, boards, and committees is true or false.
The Impact of This Freedom of Information Request
This information will eventually be released. That fact alone will have to be considered by the Selection Committee. I’ll update you when I receive the City of Hamilton’s mailed response delivered by Canada Post.
Prior to the close of applications, I provided seven people advice on the appointment process, and reviewed three people’s applications.
Production Details v. 1.1.0 Last edited: January 9, 2019 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.1.0 correction that the City of Hamilton did not ask for applicants age.