Hamilton City Hall's west wing Credit: Joey Coleman

The Office of Hamilton’s City Clerk claims they do not keep records of how they process freedom of information requests.

In the latest in a series of you can’t make this up rulings from Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commission involving the City of Hamilton, the IPC is ordering the City’s Clerks Manager of Records to search again for records they are supposed to keep but claim not to have.

The order also directs the Clerks to comply with the requirements of the Act and explain redactions of documents they’ve partially released.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Today’s case involves a 2018 request for records related to parking enforcement issues in Stoney Creek.

The person had to appeal after the City refused to process the request properly.

In a 2019 ruling, the IPC stated the Clerks “did not provide representations in response, despite being granted multiple extensions to do so.”

Hamilton is the only municipality with multiple incidents of failing to comply with the freedom of information act by refusing to respond to the IPC.

In MO-3771, an IPC Adjudicator took the rare step of publicly chastising the City Clerks by writing:

“I feel it necessary to point out that the city … did not participate in the inquiry of the appeal. I remind the city of its obligations as an institution under the Act” after the City Clerks “did not respond to the letter or to the mediator’s voice message.”

Returning to the 2019 ruling. The IPC ordered the City to conduct a proper search for records in the case.

Only upon being ordered did the Clerks comply with the law and properly process the request.

In January 2021, the same person filed a new FOI request for records related to how the City processed the 2018 request.

An FOI about the FOI Office. [This is fairly standard, journalists file FOIs about FOIs often]

This is now at IPC after the City Clerks claimed they do not keep records regarding how they process FOI files.

The requester sought records regarding why the City did not meet statutory deadlines and did not obey the Act. The City claims it does not have records regardign how it processed the file.

At IPC, the City Clerk’s Manager of Corporate Records and Freedom of Information Lisa Barroso, stated, “the reason for delays were due to the limited resources within the FOI team in combination with the volume of requests received” adding the City does not have records associated with this.

The IPC says the City did not provide sufficient evidence that it has no records and orders Clerks to conduct a further search.

The requestor asked for the number of staff hours budgeted for the office and productivity goals in the City’s policy manuals.

The City claimed it does not have to share this information. The IPC orders Clerks to properly search for the records and respond as required by the Act.

The requestor asked for the organization chart of the Freedom of Information Section.

Barroso released a redacted version of the section’s organizational chart. She did not explain the reason for redaction as required by the Act.

The IPC is ordering her to explain the redaction.

It is worth noting the City’s full organization chart was public information until 2012.

The City declared the chart confidential as part of the cover-up by City Hall to hide the ongoing employment of a former leader of the neo-Nazi organization Heritage Front as a senior IT analyst.

The IPC set a deadline of January 6, 2023, for the City Clerks to comply with the directions.

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Published: December 9, 2022
Last edited: December 9, 2022
Author: Joey Coleman
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