City of White Rock legal fees exceed $44,600 for three OIPC adjudications

City of White Rock legal fees exceed $44,600 for three OIPC adjudications

Recent FOI shows cost of OIPC inquiries

A recently fulfilled freedom-of-information request reveals how much the City of White Rock spent on legal fees – on three separate occasions – to go through the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner adjudication process.

On May 10, 2019, former White Rock resident Ross Buchanan received the results of the FOI request – filed in 2017 – into the city’s legal fees.

The information provided to Buchanan shows that the city spent a total of $44,601.50 on legal fees to deal with three OIPC adjudications.

According to an email exchange between Buchanan and a senior investigator of the OIPC, the city initially withheld the information but then “reconsidered” the decision and released it without an OIPC inquiry.

The FOI request reveals the legal fees paid by the city in connection with a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) application made by White Rock that it not be required to respond to a number of FOI requests made by a city resident.

The OIPC adjudicator found that 14 of 20 of the outstanding requests filed by the resident were systematic or repetitious and responding to them would unreasonably interfere with the city’s operations. The city was authorized by the OIPC to disregard the respondent’s future access requests, in excess of one open access request at a time, for a period of two years.

According to the recently released FOI document, the city paid $11,692 in legal fees through the process, which was complete April 12, 2017.

RELATED: No easy answers: FOI requests ‘overwhelm’ City of White Rock

Buchanan also sought the amount spent by the city in legal fees after a resident requested access to records relating to a statement made by the city’s chief administrative officer about the financial viability of connecting to the Greater Vancouver Regional District water supply.

The OIPC order, dated April 12, 2017, says that the city provided records, but it refused to disclose some information relating to solicitor-client privilege, local public body confidences, harm to financial or economic interests of public body, and harm to third party business interest.

The OIPC adjudicator found that the city was not authorized or required to refuse access to some of the information it withheld, and the city was required to provide the information.

According to Buchanan’s FOI results, the city paid $23,252 in legal fees to deal with the file.

Last, Buchanan asked for the legal fees paid by the city in connection to an applicant’s request for copies of invoices issued to the city for legal services obtained in 2015 and part of 2016. According to the OIPC order, the city provided records to the applicant, “but withheld most of the information on the basis it was protected by solicitor-client privilege.”

The OIPC adjudicator determined that the city was authorized to refuse to disclose some of the information in the invoices, including a description of the legal services provided, however, the adjudicator required the city to release information relating to the total amount of fees charged on each invoice.

According to Buchanan’s FOI request, the city paid $9,657.50 in legal fees in relation to the file.

Last November, the OIPC conducted an audit on the City of White Rock and determined the city “has serious issues” with respect to how freedom-of-information requests were being managed by the city.

In the 23-page report, the OIPC stated that it audited the city due to the “high number” of complaints and requests for review it received over the past five years.

The audit found issues with 65 per cent of the sampled files. Most of the concerns, the report stated, related to a failure to meet legislated timelines and missing documentation.

After the audit was released, the city released a statement taking issue with the report, saying it was “disappointed that the scope of the Audit did not include a review of the specific content of access of information requests or the difficulties faced by White Rock related to vexatious, frivolous, or systematic requests.”

RELATED: City of White Rock blames ‘vexatious’ FOIs, after watchdog expresses ‘serious issues of concern’

Not long after the city’s statement, newly-elected White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said the city’s statement wasn’t vetted by him, and his council will be reviewing how media releases are done.

The statement was amended shortly after – it was acknowledged the next day – with some of the more contentious words and passages removed.

While Walker told PAN in November that he agreed with some of the points made in the city’s statement, he took issue with the “phraseology” and with comments critical of FOI applicants that “didn’t need to be said at all.”

RELATED: Mayor says city’s statement on ‘vexatious’ FOI requests wasn’t vetted by him

The audit listed a number of recommendations, including that the city fully document all FOI requests from the original request to the closing of the file; forward requests to departments to search for records as soon as possible; and take “immediate steps” to ensure that they respond to all FOI requests within the mandatory time frame.

At the beginning of this year, the city created a page on its website that lists all FOI requests made in 2019. Each request includes information about when it was received, its statutory response date, and the status of the file. The response date, along with the entire response, is posted on the webpage.

RELATED: White Rock FOI requests posted to city’s website

The most recent FOI request the city received, according to the FOI web page, relates to the cost of cleaning the rainbow crosswalk in the Five Corners neighbourhood after it was vandalized with tire marks and paint. The FOI request was received on April 15, and received a response later that day.

The total cost for removing the graffiti was $1,131.91 and the cost for removing the tire marks was $418.01.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Deb Jack was named Surrey’s Good Citizen of the Year in 2012. (File photo)
Environmentalists’ delegation takes aim at Bear Creek Park road project

‘Bear Creek Park is ours – a natural heritage,’ Deb Jack says

Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside his old Green Timbers-area house. Its looming demolition triggers some memories for the musician. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Rapper Merkules visits old Surrey home one final time before its demolition

‘It’s weird seeing the place gutted like this,’ he says of the Green Timbers-area rancher

In a letter to Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee dated May 11, Delta Mayor George Harvie confirmed the city’s interest in acquiring a head lease for the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, with the intention of subletting it to the recently-formed Heron Hospice Society of Delta. (The Canadian Press photo)
Mayor confirms Delta’s interest in leasing Centre for Supportive Care

Harvie says city intends to sublet the facility to recently-formed Heron Hospice Society of Delta

The City of Surrey has moved a step closer to its single-use plastics and styrofoam ban, approving a communication and education plan for businesses. (File photo)
Surrey moves forward with single-use plastics ban, anticipated to take effect in November

‘Communication and education plan’ to prepare businesses approved

Surrey-based entrepreneur Ekam Panesar, 19, says he’s ready to take on the big delivery apps with his Dishpal App. (Zoom meeting photo)
Surrey entrepreneur, 19, delivers Dishpal as alternative to ‘big’ food/grocery apps

Ekam Panesar got the idea to develop app as a 16-year-old enjoying a summertime meal with his father

Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside his old Green Timbers-area house. Its looming demolition triggers some memories for the musician. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Rapper Merkules visits old Surrey home one final time before its demolition

‘It’s weird seeing the place gutted like this,’ he says of the Green Timbers-area rancher

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read