By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
It’s been roughly three months since the initial deadline for the city to release documents related to the city’s consolidated works depot.
The documents were originally planned to be released on Aug. 23, but city clerk Andrew Brouwer admitted it has turned into a much more daunting task than first thought.
The decision follows a recent appeal surrounding information provided to municipal investigator George Rust-D’Eye.
The city hired Rust-D’Eye to analyze claims made by former auditor general Ron Foster into the purchase of the depot property. In his report, Foster claimed the city overpaid for the property and accused the then-city manager of influencing the process and threatening the independence of the auditor general’s office.
Foster has since applied for a judicial review of the city’s decision to eliminate the auditor general position.
A group of city residents sought for the release of a computer drive given to Rust D’Eye and other related documents.
City officials initially claimed the computer drive had been deleted, but the group of residents found an email confirming its contents had indeed been backed up.
Brouwer recently told The Oshawa Express work is still underway to prepare the documents.
“We have made very good progress but we are not in a position to release it and I cannot give you an estimated release date,” Brouwer says.
Brouwer says the documents need to be reviewed to the fullest extent before being made public.
“It’s a large scope of records. Part of our responsibility is to ensure the privacy and confidentiality, and decide what parts need to be redacted,” he says.
The clerk says having a municipal election to deal with created challenges as well.
“We are doing the best we can,” he says.
Jeff Davis is one of the local residents who made the original FOI request for the documents. To him, the city’s explanation is not cutting it.
“The city requested and was granted a 120-day extension to release all documents relevant to the [consolidated operations depot]. That expired on Aug. 23,” he told The Oshawa Express in an email. “They are now an additional 90 days beyond the extension. That’s seven months and all they have released is a redacted copy of AG-13-09, but have told us there are as many as 10,000 additional pages.”
To Davis, “there is no credibility in anything the city tells us.”
“When we can not believe or trust the city when responding to an FOI request, mandated by the MFIPPA (Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act), how can we believe anything they have told us about the COD project, or any other decision made by the past council?” Davis questions. “Hell, they haven’t even released a final costing of the COD project.”
Davis says he feels the city “threw the clerk’s department and ‘staff’ under the bus” in a press release from July that included an apology for how the release of the documents had been handled.
However, he points out that council, particularly the mayor, is responsible to provide direction to staff.
“They failed to correct a systemic problem at Rundle Tower and failed to direct staff, to be honest, and be transparent in the process. One can’t help but ask, what was the former mayor and council trying to keep quiet?” Davis states.
He says he is hopeful the new council will see through the release of the documents and “turn a page toward accountability and transparency.”