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Paper trail needs to be a priority

Perhaps the City of Oshawa was hoping that as time went on, the residents of this city would forgive and forget.

However, it seems not many dedicated city hall watchers have been able to forgive, and even more haven’t forgotten.

In 2013, the city purchased two parcels of land for its new works depot. The decision itself was mired in controversy with calls of corruption, coercion and mismanagement of dollars ringing out in the council chambers. Some of those claims were brought forward by the city’s own auditor general, a decision that eventually cost him his job.

Now, nearly four years later, the story continues to smoulder at city hall and many questions remain unanswered, documents remain secret, and it seems that even through the legal, legislated means, residents are unable to get the answers they are entitled to.

Requests for information surrounding the purchase of 199 Wentworth Street East and any communications between staff members at the time continue to be met with fees reaching into the thousands of dollars. The Oshawa Express has received more than one estimate citing $11,000 or more to retrieve information.

The common cause of the egregious cost is the fact that the server upon which this information sits is no longer in existence and would need to be rebuilt by professionals in order to be found.

Now, a resident does have avenues to take if they think the city isn’t doing enough to find the information, as the Information and Privacy Commissioner is available to look into such matters. However, taking this route, one may not pay with cash, but they certainly pay with their time. The arbitration and adjudication process through the IPC can take months, and sometimes years before the information is finally released.

It all seems too much, and one can only imagine the legal costs for the city to handle these lengthy appeals to the IPC, which numbered 11 in the last year.

Council will return for their fall session in a few short weeks. In fact, the first committee meetings will be only eight short days after the four-year anniversary of that fateful council meeting on September 3, 2013. A meeting that involved undercover police, residents dragged away bloody and in handcuffs, and saw council’s watchdog fired.

Fixing the city’s broken records management scheme should be made a top priority moving forward. The review has been ongoing for years, despite the fact that it was meant to be completed in 2015.

It is here that the real problem lies. If the city is able to completely erase documents pertaining to one of the most controversial purchases in the city’s history, something is not right.

In those first committee meetings council should ask for an update on this ongoing review, and make sure staff has put this item at the top of its priority list.