B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner has denied the City of Nanaimo’s request to block and limit freedom of information requests from former CAO Tracy Samra.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of B.C., in a ruling Jan. 13, dismissed the city’s request for authorization to disregard several outstanding Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requests.
According to the ruling from adjudicator Ian Davis, the respondent Samra – who is not identified by name in the document – made multi-part FOI requests in May, June, August and September last year, mostly related to a forensic audit report prepared by KPMG.
The ruling notes that the city’s director of legislative services – not named, but a position held by Sheila Gurrie – swore an affidavit saying that the city had responded to roughly half of the respondent’s requests.
The city submitted to the OIPC that “the outstanding requests are frivolous or vexatious” because the city “has reason to believe” that the respondent already possesses some of the requested records.
The city added that Samra made the requests “in bad faith, for a malicious motive, and in an effort to harass city staff and obstruct them from carrying out their other work duties.” The city’s submission added that the respondent’s past conduct illustrates “disregard for the [FOIPPA] and a willingness to abuse it.” The city made the OIPC aware that the respondent’s time at the city was “tumultuous” and claimed that “the respondent continues to be ‘aggressive, dismissive and demeaning’ toward city staff [who] fear the respondent, dread receiving e-mails from [her] and dread having to deal with her, which causes them to ‘suffer significant stress and anxiety.’”
Samra, in her response, said there was no overlap between her previous FOI requests and the outstanding ones and said accessing the records is important to her to help her refresh her recollections “and to develop the best possible evidentiary foundation for the eventual hearing” in her B.C. Human Rights tribunal case against the City of Nanaimo and two individuals not named, one of whom is former mayor Bill McKay.
“I unequivocally deny possessing copies of any of the records sought in my request; engaging in toxic behaviour toward city employees; improperly possessing documents; abusing FOIPPA; abusive and vindictive behaviour toward city employees; making a death threat; being aggressive, dismissive and demeaning toward city staff; or seeking to harass and obstruct the city’s ordinary operation,” the respondent said in her submission to the OIPC.
The adjudicator Davis ruled that he accepted the respondent’s sworn evidence that she wants the requested records for her human rights tribunal case, which he said is not an improper motive and does not suggest bad faith. Davis ruled that the city failed to meet its burden of proof that the outstanding FOI requests are vexatious.
“I accept that, in general, the respondent’s employment with the city did not go well for her or the city and this continues to have residual negative effects,” the ruling notes.
According to the OIPC ruling, Samra’s human rights complaint was adjourned last April 15.