No April Fool’s Joke – Fees For Information Are Fair Says Clerk

Paula Parker, Amherstburg Town Clerk, issued a decision letter today and stated, “In reviewing your request, I note that you have not identified a financial hardship, therefore I maintain that the already reduced amount due of $892.50 to complete this request is fair as per the Act.”

BACKGROUND

The town’s Resolution, distributed throughout the province, was to request an extension of the website compliance date of January 1, 2021 due to COVID. During the public discussion, Paula Parker and CAO Miceli mentioned third party vendors.

October 7, 2020 FOI request relative to the town of Amherstburg website and third party vendors, requests for quotes, contracts and the re-design of the site.

October 9, Paula Parker confirmed receipt of request.

October 14 Paula Parker sought clarification.

October 16 clarification provided: wording was based on wording CAO Miceli and Paula Parker used in reference to non-compliance due to third party vendors.

October 20 Paula Parker advised, in part, your request is not strictly related to website compliance, this will take some time to complete and an extension letter inclusive of estimate for search and preparation time, as legislated is forthcoming.

October 20 further clarification provided; request did not include ‘website compliance.’

October 29 Paula Parker issued letter; meeting the time limit would un reasonably interfere with the operations, the application cannot reasonably be completed, the town requires an extension to December 4.

October 29 Paula Parker issued second letter; based on initial review, estimate is:

search: 22 hours and 15 minutes @ $7.50/15 minutes = $667.50
preparation: 10 hours @ $7.50/15 minutes = $300.00
total = $967.50
A deposit of $483.75 will be required in order to proceed further with the request. (original bold)

November 23 Appeal to Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario

January 2021 IPC Mediator involved

February 22 request the town waive the fees for this request pursuant to section 45(4) of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. M.56.

February 24 Paula Parker acknowledged receipt; will review and advise in the coming days.

March 30 Paula Parker issued letter; amended fee reduced by $75.00:

search: 22 hours @ $7.50/15 minutes = $660.50
preparation: 7.75 hours @ $7.50/15 minutes = $232.50
total = $892.50
This would require a deposit of $446.25 to proceed further with the request. (original bold)

April 1 Paula Parker issued letter; “In reviewing your request, I note that you have not identified a financial hardship, therefore I maintain that the already reduced amount due of $892.50 to complete this request is fair as per the Act.” This will require a deposit of $446.25 to proceed further with the request. (original bold)

2 thoughts on “No April Fool’s Joke – Fees For Information Are Fair Says Clerk

  1. thanks. the search is limited to external contracts and an appeal has been filed. FOI request was submitted due to Paula Parker’s previous statement: there are a number of third party vendors providing services to the Town in a variety of manners and a review by town staff is ongoing as to redundancy, duplication and contract terms/conditions. While this review is underway and not yet complete, I cannot at this time provide a thorough list. A report is expected to be available in 2021 with suggestions from administration for efficiencies in service delivery and a streamlined approach to web content delivery.

  2. In my experience, the Town utilizes MFIPPA fees to thwart transparency and public scrutiny. You might try narrowing your request (ensure it is limited to requests for external third party tenders, and related contracts and invoices, versus voluminous internal musings) or alternatively request a ministerial review of the costs under S45(5), which I believe you can do now, but sometimes it’s better to wait until the final bill, as the Town can throw in superfluous information to support an estimate. The 22.5 search hours is ridiculous if your search is limited to external contracts. However, you should anticipate your next roadblock will be the Town refusing to turn over contracts and invoices, citing “privacy concerns of the third party, whom they contacted”, which means yet another appeal if you are to gain access. And you will still be billed for the full cost of the search, despite the limited response.

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