By Robert Frank
Councilor Brian Manning has obtained Baie d’Urfé’s architectural plans for a proposed new town hall via an access to information (ATI) request as a private citizen.
“I finally received the plans after asking for them since I was elected,” he said in an interview. “I also placed another request about the cost of all the plans, which is enormous. I have all the documents.”
Manning remained reluctant to share the documents, saying that a senior town official had warned him that it would violate the law to do so.
“I would like to release some of these documents but I was told that I can’t,” he said.
The official provided a page from the Access to Information Commission web site that referred to new, beefed up ATI rules that came into effect April 1, and suggested that he could not share the town hall information with any other individuals, because the town had provided it to him before April 1.
However Access to Information Commission jurist Stéphanie Poullin-Régnié was unequivocal that Baie d’Urfé’s contention was unfounded.
“Once the city provides access to a document, it no longer has any control over it,” she said in a telephone interview. “The person who has obtained it through the ATI law can do whatever they want with it.”
Poullin-Régnié added that the April 1 rule that the Baie d’Urfé official cited to Manning was irrelevant, “because it doesn’t apply to municipalities.”
“I thought that whatever we need to make a decision—any kind of documents that would help us to decide on anything in town that we’re voting on—should be made available to us,” Manning said. “I presume that [Baie d’Urfé’s legal counsel] wasn’t talking about through the ATI route.”
Manning has had to file ATI requests to find out the rate of return that the town’s more than $8 million in deposits is earning.
“Seems like it’s well under one per cent,” he said.
“Should we be leaving this to the administration to manage?” Manning asked. “That’s what I feel has been done. The buck stops at city council, not with the administration.”
Mayor Maria Tutino failed to respond to an interview request during the past week. Last month, she said in an interview that the town wants to be exempted from the province’s ATI law because it doesn’t have enough staff to respond to ATI requests.
She specifically objected to responding to a request from resident Gaetano Ionata for financial information. Last week, the Access to Information Commission ruled against the town of Prévost, which had objected to a similar ATI request.
At this month’s council meeting, Tutino moved to bar Manning as well as Councilor Peter Fletcher from serving as pro-mayor.
Fletcher, who has previously chaired a council meeting in her absence, suggested that broadcasting council proceedings via the internet would help.
“It would enable all elected officials to be held accountable without emotional or obscured interpretation,” he said in a statement. “Transparency can be improved in Baie d’Urfé. I will continue to voice my respectful opposition.”
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