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
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.
Kevin McKee, A/Director