Refrain From Contacting Members Of Council For Information?

I’m researching obtaining information from the Town of Amherstburg.

Has anyone been asked to refrain from contacting members of council for information and rely on the MFIPPA process?

Open government is of interest to me and has been since the 1990s when Amherstburg Police FOI Coordinator Bart DiPasquale routinely denied my requests for information.

Amherstburg Needs Routine Disclosure Policy

Following the post, A Year Later, No Town Policy Re Routine Requests For Information, a second request to council is on its April 12 agenda: for council to adopt the Information and Privacy Commissioner recommended Routine Disclosure and Active Dissemination Policy, revised in 1998.

Why do we need this policy? Because in the spirit of accountability and transparency, it is my opinion that not every request needs to be a formal freedom of information request.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner encourages municipalities and has produced, with the City of Mississauga, a resource, Routine Disclosure/Active Dissemination A Best Practice in the City of Mississauga.

Also from the IPC website:

Open Government

Open Government is based on the core belief that the public has the right to access the records and proceedings of government to enable greater openness, accountability, and engagement.  Its goals are to:

  • improve the quality of governance and services by becoming sustainably more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to the public and
  • enable the public to make better and more informed decisions, resulting in an improvement to the quality of their lives

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario has long stressed the need for enhanced public access to government-held information.  Accordingly, it is a strong supporter of Open Government.

The IPC encourages all institutions under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to determine how they can begin or expand their Open Government activities.  Our office is actively offering resources and support to institutions embracing this more open approach.

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.”


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)

Information And Privacy Commission Order Concludes Appeal With Ministry Solicitor General

On today’s date, the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario orders the ministry to disclose the emails to the appellant (pages 98 and 99), except for the portion withheld on page 99 due to section 18(1)(d). Until the Order is available online, you can read PO-4127 revised by IPC for typos on March 31.

The Ministry and the town of Amherstburg objected to the disclosure and cited law enforcement exemptions.

Windsor police objected to disclosure of pages 142 and 143, floor plans, on the basis of the law enforcement harms in section 14(1) of the Act. In response, the appellant submitted, among other arguments, that the harms were not present because she already had a copy of the floor plans, which she provided, disclosed by The town of Amherstburg.

Windsor Police submitted, in part,

  • Recently a group of individuals stormed the Capital Building. During the investigation into this incident, a video was located. The footage depicts individuals discussing the floor plans to determine the best method to execute entry to the building.”
  • It is not my intent to infer that the requester will use this information for nefarious purposes; however, it has been established, in previous orders, that disclosure to one person is disclosure to the world.
  • It is for the reasons stated above access should be denied to the records. In my opinion, it is not imaginary to assume that the disclosure of the records may lead the theft of firearms, drugs, intelligence information or result in harm being committed against our officers or civilian staff.

Mayor DiCarlo: Appropriate Avenue is FOI Request To Windsor Police

theburgwatch inquiry to Mayor DiCarlo was for the number of times in each of the past two years that Windsor Police has had to utilize specialty units in the town of Amherstburg. (November 26)

Mayor DiCarlo: The appropriate avenue to get that information is through a written inquiry sent to the Windsor Police Freedom of Information Coordinator, Shelley Gray.  I have copied her on this email. (November 28)

theburgwatch: Given recent emails, i thought you were the appropriate person, “I follow up with all taxpayer requests for information wherever and however possible.  I also follow up with the media in the same way.”

How disappointing that requests for information require formal requests; maybe a new policy is required to increase transparency? (November 28)

related posts:

Windsor Police Requires FOI Request – Telephone Survey
Windsor Police Proposal Requires FOI Application

Windsor Police Requires FOI Request – Telephone Survey

I hoped the Windsor Police Service would disclose the survey questions put to residents via phone but, once again, Windsor Police requires a formal FOI request.

theburgwatch requested a copy of the Windsor Police Service survey questions to post here. (November 12)

WPS: The survey is now complete, and no further phone calls from the initiative are anticipated. If you do still seek the questions, I would refer you to LEGER – as they conducted the survey. (November 16)

LEGER has not responded. i would like a copy of any Request for Tenders, quotes, etc. for the Windsor Police Survey, as well as a copy of the purchase order/contract with LEGER for the same. thank you. (November 26)

WPS: In order for you to move forward with the below inquiries, I would direct you to a Freedom of Information Request. Step-by-step information on how to proceed with such a request is available on our website at: (November 27)

related post: Windsor Police Proposal Requires FOI Application

Amherstburg Discloses Further Records Following IPC Ordered Search

The Town of Amherstburg has disclosed further records following the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario ORDER MO-3934-I regarding the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request to the town for correspondence regarding the police costing from the town’s CAO and his staff to the OPP.

The IPC Adjudicator’s Analysis and Finding were:

(27)  I find that the town’s search was not reasonable, and I will order it to conduct a new search.

(28). I am persuaded by the appellant’s argument that the electronic search was too narrow and that it ought to have included the EA’s email address. The town does not dispute that the scope of the request included the CAO’s staff and it has explained that the CAO has only one staff member. While I acknowledge that the town stands by the reasonableness of the search, it has not provided a sufficient explanation for why no electronic search was undertaken of the EA’s email.

(29). I further acknowledge that the town takes the position that the electronic search was only complementary to the paper-based search. However, the town has also emphasized that both components of the search are important. To that end, in this case, I have concluded that it is in fact because the town itself relies on the electronic component of the search that the omission of the EA’s email from the search renders the search incomplete.

(30)  I am also persuaded that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that there ought to be additional records. Using the content of the records that were disclosed to her in this appeal, the appellant has established a reasonable basis that additional records ought to exist. Further, the appellant has possession of responsive records that have not been disclosed by the town in this appeal. Although it had the opportunity to do so, the town has not provided an explanation for this fact.

The town requested an extension of the August 10, 2020 deadline as it had commenced the additional searches, which yielded a large volume of records that required review; and there had been some delays in completing the additional searches due to demands on staff time because of emergency declarations for COVID-19 and flooding.

Nicholas Renaud’s affidavit states, in part, he conducted the search and provided 24,223 records for review. Kevin Fox’s affidavit states, in part, the IT Division provided 24,223 emails for review that he manually reviewed.

Paula Parker, the town’s FOI Coordinator, states three further records were disclosed: M-2018-16 Decision copy.  note: format originated from the town.

An Order will be issued.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search

UPDATE: Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search

On August 10, 2020, the compliance date for Information and Privacy Commission ORDER MO-3934-I, the Town of Amherstburg requested an extension until September 30 to complete further searches and provide affidavits and representations about the additional searches in satisfaction of Order Provisions 1- 3.

As posted in Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search). the first three Order provisions are:

  1. I order the town to conduct a further electronic search in response to the appellant’s request using the email addresses of the EA and any other staff in the CAO’s office.
  2. I order the town to conduct a further search of its electronic and paper record holdings for records that may flow from the May 8, 2017 email referred to in paragraph 24 of this order.
  3. I order the town to provide me with an affidavit sworn by the individual(s) who conduct(s) the further searches by August 10, 2020 describing its search efforts. The affidavit(s) should include the following information:
    1. the names and positions of the individuals who conducted the searches;
    2. information about the types of files searched, the nature and location of the search(es) and the steps taken in conducting the search(es);
    3. the results of the search(es); and,
    4. if the search described in order provision 2 does not yield any further results, an explanation.

The Adjudicator understood from the town’s letter that the Town of Amherstburg has commenced the additional searches, which have yielded a large volume of records that require review; and that there have been some delays in completing the additional searches due to demands on staff time because of emergency declarations for COVID-19 and flooding.

In response, the Adjudicator amended the compliance date in Order Provision 3 to be September 30, 2020.

Any further requests for extension must be made before September 15 and the appellant will be given an opportunity to make representations. Requests for additional time for compliance with Order Provisions 1-3 beyond September 30 that are received after September 15 will not be granted, unless extraordinary circumstances are present.

The Adjudicator clarified that the order was issued by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, which is an Office of the Legislative Assembly and independent from the provincial government.

Privacy Concerns Regarding Downtown Survey Founded

In a December 20, 2015 post, I mentioned privacy concerns about the study given that the town and Amherstburg police have breached my personal information.

I emailed members of council that I would participate as long as the collection was in compliance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). There should have been a notice pursuant to Act that addressed the collection, use, access and disclosure of personal information by the town.

Not one elected official responded to my privacy concerns.

Following a formal complaint, the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario confirmed that the Town of Amherstburg’s advertisement regarding the downtown use survey did not satisfy all of the notice requirements in section 29(2) of the Act.

Specifically, it did not notify residents of the legal authority for the collection of their personal information or provide information about whom to contact with any questions about the collection.

The Information and Privacy Commission advised that town clerk Paula Parker acknowledged that, in this case, the town did not use its usual personal information collection disclaimer and that the advertisement and online survey was not vetted through the Clerk’s department before publication. Ms. Parker confirmed that the Town will put a procedure in place that requires the Clerk’s department to vet the collection of personal information before publication.

I subsequently emailed Ms. Parker, copied to council, to notify her that an address was missing from the strategic plan survey notice per the Act.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Background To Questions About Leaked Information

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In September 2015, news media reported that in camera information had been leaked to the public during the fire department changeover.

Julie Kotsis, Windsor Star, reported, “Amherstburg CAO John Miceli is clamping down on an ongoing problem with confidential town council information being leaked or hacked.”

In a recent post, I wrote about the decision that Officially, it was hearsay, in response to my Freedom of Information Request for “reports and minutes of closed meetings pertaining to the fire department changeover that were released to members of the public.”

The following is a more detailed account of questions I raised concurrently through emails in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

In an October 1 email to John Miceli, CAO, I requested, pursuant to the freedom of information legislation, a copy of the town’s notification to the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario of the breach of confidential council information.

On October 8, Mr. Miceli’s response directed me to a forwarded email from Ms. Parker that stated the Privacy Breach Protocol was followed and it was determined that notification to the IPC was not warranted in this matter. Mr. Miceli further stated, “If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact me.”

On October 14, I emailed my further questions to Mr. Miceli regarding this or any other breach of information:

  • did council order an investigation?
  • was an independent investigation undertaken?
  • did you or admin conduct an investigation?
  • was a solicitor consulted for direction?
  • how many times was the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario notified of a privacy breach?

Almost six weeks later, in a November 23 email, I reminded Mr. Miceli I would like my questions to be answered and, as an aside, I advised the CAO that I could not locate the town’s by-law designating anyone as the town’s Freedom of Information Coordinator on the town’s website.

Members of council were copied and I requested this be placed on council’s agenda.

On November 24, Mr. Miceli emailed me the following:

“Further to your questions I can provide you with the following answers:

1)     Council did order an investigation
2)     AN independent investigation was not undertaken in this regard.
3)     Administration conducted a review an introduced measures to mitigate future leaks.
4)     NO solicitor was consulted
5)     Please see Ms. Parker’s previous response dated October 1, 2015.

Ms. Paula Parker is designated by the Town’s through By-law 2011-84. I have attached a copy for your records. By copy of this email I will ask the clerk to place your correspondence on the public attention.”

(note: the by-law was not posted to the town’s website; it was at the external archived county of essex site and none of the grammatical errors are mine)

Since Paula Parker’s information addressed my initial question about one particular incident, in a November 27 follow up email to Mr. Miceli, I reiterated my question “regarding this or any other breach of information” how many times was the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario notified of a privacy breach?

On November 27, Paula Parker emailed me the following:‪ ‬

“‪With respect to question #5.  The response provided on October 8 may speak to the individual circumstance in question at that time, however in all instances of alleged breach of information this answer still applies.  See below:‬

‪In accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), which governs municipal government organizations, the Privacy Breach Protocol was followed in determining whether these breaches of information would require Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) notification.  The following information was taken into consideration.‬

‪The definition of personal information, as per the Act, is:‬

‪“personal information” means recorded information about an identifiable individual, including,‬

‪(a) information relating to the race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or marital or family status of the individual,‬

‪(b) information relating to the education or the medical, psychiatric, psychological, criminal or employment history of the individual or information relating to financial transactions in which the individual has been involved,‬

‪(c) any identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned to the individual,‬

‪(d) the address, telephone number, fingerprints or blood type of the individual,‬

‪(e) the personal opinions or views of the individual except if they relate to another individual,‬

‪(f) correspondence sent to an institution by the individual that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence,‬

‪(g) the views or opinions of another individual about the individual, and‬

‪(h) the individual’s name if it appears with other personal information relating to the individual or where the disclosure of the name would reveal other personal information about the individual;‬

‪Under this definition of personal information, it was determined that the above such information was not released in these breaches of information.  Therefore notification to the IPC was not warranted in these matters.‬”

No one ever did inform me of council’s action/inaction regarding my correspondence.