An inconstant government?

When Public Eye investigated the government's statement its top Olympic bureaucrat left the civil service by "mutual consent," we got a copy of her unusual $300,000-plus severance deal. But when the New Democrats filed a similar freedom of information request, the government gave the opposition nothing.

Writing to the finance ministry on June 23, the New Democrats asked for any records related to Annette Antoniak's depature - including "severance pay." In a response sent on July 14, the ministry refused to disclose those records because it would be an "unreasonable invasion of a third party's privacy." But that didn't stop government from releasing nine-pages of severance pay records to Public Eye four days earlier in response to a freedom of information request filed on February 13.

That disclosure came after finance transferred our request to the government agency that actually held those records - something the New Democrats specifically asked to happen if the ministry didn't have copies.

"There seems to be inconsistency as to how the (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) is applied," New Democrat critic Kathy Corrigan commented.

"If people are taking on these high-profile government jobs - good-paying jobs - they should expect their settlements should be divulged. And I don't think we should have to do freedom of information requests to find out what someone is getting paid for a severance package."

Employees who resign don't usually get such packages. The following is a complete copy of the response to the New Democrats' request.

***

July 14, 2009

Official Opposition, New Democrat Caucus
Parliament Bldgs Rm 201
Victoria BC V8V 1X4

Dear

Re: Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Request for Records

I am writing in response to your request submitted under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) for any and all records relating to the departure of Annette Antoniak as head of the BC Olympic Secretariat. This request includes, but is not limited to, the following records: Records relating to the decision to terminate Ms. Antoniak/reasons for her departure, correspondence to and from the individual regarding her employment status, records relating to the terms and conditions relating to her departure, i.e. severance pay.

Please note that the disclosure of this type of information is presumed to be an unreasonable invasion of a third party's privacy as it relates to the individual's employment and occupational history. So if this information did exist we would not have been able to provide access to these records under section 22(1) of the Act.

I trust that no further action with regard to your file is required of this office. If you have any questions about the processing of your request, please contract Anita Foster, Manager, either in writing to the address on this letterhead or by telephone at (250) 952-3565.

Under section 52 of the Act, you may apply to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) for a review of the Ministry's response to your request. You have 30 days from receipt of this notice to request a review by writing to the OIPC. The procedure is outlined on the enclosed page.

Sincerely,

Kevin McKee, A/Director

3 Comments

Anyone involved in the decision to deny the Official Opposition this information, perfectly reasonable information, that was in the public's interest to know, should be fired immediately. And here's the shocker - WITH NO DAMN SEVERANCE PAY (ie. truckloads of taxpayer dollars).

If you're a regular joe, or jane, like most of us, we get FIRED for making BIG mistakes and we certainly don't get hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance when we're out on our butts, so why do BC's bureaucrats think they can take our money like this? Why did Antoniak "depart" anyways?

BC's Information & Privacy sector is a joke, even when government abuses their power and authority in managing FOI requests, there is no penalty, no consequences for wrongdoing and that is just the way the government likes it, it benefits them time & time again and disadvantages us, the people of BC.

I suppose the public will be paying out grand severance awards to every senior official involved with the Olympics as the games head to completion. Any of that been budgeted? Or, is the multi-million dollar cost simply another Olympic legacy that future taxpayers can address?

Hmmmmm.....

Will be interesting to learn if, when Mr. Holman enquires about this matter, he is told that there is nothing 'sinister' about it at all because, well, you know, that dodge worked once already for another crown-type 'entity'.

Or some such thing.

.

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