The Northern Village of Pinehouse’s sorry response to Access to Information

Over the past three years, the Village of Pinehouse has demonstrated a lack of responsiveness to, if not, in fact, an outright defiance of, Saskatchewan’s Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP).  A civil law suit filed in 2014 by Briarpatch magazine forced the Village into mediation and a half-hearted response to outstanding Access to Information Requests at the time.  But, subsequent Access Requests have been met with slow responses or no response at all.   These problems have all been reviewed by the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner with only minimal results.

Listed below are the ten Review Reports on the Northern Village of Pinehouse issued by the Information and Privacy Commissioner to date (click on the hotlinks to access the full reports).  Eight such reports were posted just this month (June 2016).  We watch for further developments with keen interest.

  • Review Report LA-2013-004 regarding two Freedom of Information Requests in 2013 from Briarpatch magazine for Village and Pinehouse Business North documents related to their dealings with Cameco, Areva and Nuclear Waste Management Organization.  The Commissioner found that the Village “failed to respond appropriately” to the two requests and that failure was “without lawful excuse and with knowledge on the part of the Mayor and the Administrator” and “that such actions constituted a violation of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”  He recommended that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General consider prosecution, but that was not done.
  • Review Report 141-2015 regarding one Freedom of Information Request submitted in 2015 by freelance journalist, D’Arcy Hande, for Village and Pinehouse Business North (PBN) documents related to PBN’s failure to remit 2010 Goods and Service Tax receipts to the Canada Revenue Agency.  Although the Village provided very few documents responsive to the Request, the Information Commissioner found that “the Village has demonstrated that its search for records responsive to the Applicant’s Access to Information Request was reasonable and adequate.”  No attempt was made by the Information Commissioner as to why the requested documents had not been retained by Pinehouse Business North.
  • Review Report 036-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for “copies of any and all documentation related to remuneration and expenses of each member of the PBN [Pinehouse Business North] board of directors, 2009-2014, including remuneration logs, time vouchers and expense claims submitted in support of that remuneration, as well as copies of the PBN board minutes approving payment of that remuneration.”  No response was received from the Village.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village did not comply with Section 7 of LA FOIP and there has been a refusal to provide access to the records requested.  The Commissioner recommends that the Village release the responsive records.
  • Review Report 037-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for “a copy of the first Records Retention and Disposal Schedule for the Northern Village of Pinehouse, the Village Council, minutes authorizing that schedule, and minutes of Council authorizing any subsequent revisions to that schedule; AND copy of all requests to dispose of records since January 1, 2008 and copies of minutes of Village Council indicating approval.” The Northern Municipalities Act Section 132(1) stipulates that Village Council “shall establish a records retention and disposal schedule, and all documents of the municipality shall be dealt with in accordance with that schedule.” The Village failed to provide the requested records. The Information Commissioner found that the Village did not comply with section 7 of LA FOIP and there has been a refusal to provide access to the records requested;  he recommends that the Village release the responsive records.
  • Review Report 039-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for “copies of Village Council minutes and PBN [Pinehouse Business North] Board minutes in which motions were passed authorizing the PBN board to dispense with financial statements (audited or unaudited) for 2009, 2010 and 2011.” The Village responded (late) that these records do not exist.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village has not performed a reasonable search for records and that the Village did not respond to the Access to Information Request within the legislated timelines.  He recommends that the Village perform a reasonable search for records and, if no records are found, that it provide a detailed explanation of the search.
  • Review Report 040-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for “copies of all documentation related to the decision by PBN to sponsor the Saskatchewan Party Youth Convention in November 2015 [should be 2014]. This includes correspondence with the Saskatchewan Party and its youth section, PBN minutes, letters, emails and memos to authorize that sponsorship, and invoices/receipts from the Sask Party sponsorship.” No response was received from the Village.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village did not comply with Section 7 of the LA FOIP and there has been a refusal to provide access to the records requested;  he recommends that the Village release responsive records.
  • Review Report 056-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for “copies of the documentation that was provided to the Village’s external auditor supporting the $3,163,070 figure reported [for Pinehouse Business North’s net earnings] in the Village’s audited financial statement for 2012.” In the PBN 2012 unaudited financial statement, the “net income for the year” is indicated as $102,609. However, in the Village audited financial statement for 2012, PBN’s “net income for the year” is indicated as $3,163,070.  (According to PBN’s financial statement, total revenue for that year – mainly for contract services – was $2,040,144.)  The Village responded (late) indicating that records responsive to the request were denied pursuant to Subsection 17(1)(f) of  LA FOIP.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village did not properly apply Subsection 17(1)(f) of LA FOIP to the record, and that the Village did not respond to the Access to Information Request within the legislated timelines.  He recommends that the Village release the responsive records.
  • Review Report 098-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for copies of any and all remuneration logs, time vouchers and expense claims submitted in support of remuneration paid to Village Councilor, Greg Ross, in 2011 and 2012, as well as copies of the Village Council Minutes approving payment of that remuneration. After nearly four months, the Village finally provided the financial documentation requested, but not the supporting Minutes. It charged the applicant $270.75 for the copies provided.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village’s extension of 30 days was not in accordance with Subsection 12(1)(c) of LA FOIP, that the Village refused to provide the Applicant access to Minutes of its Council Meetings, and that reasonable fees would total $30.75.  He recommends that the Village release the Minutes responsive to the request and that the Village refund the applicant $240.
  • Review Report 106-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request about the full amount of salaries and bonuses paid in 2014 and 2015 to both Vince Natomagan, Pinehouse Corporate Engagement Officer, and Glen McCallum, Pinehouse Social Development Officer, plus copies of any expense claims for which they were reimbursed in the same two fiscal years. No response was received from the Village.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village did not comply with Section 7 of LA FOIP and there has been a refusal to provide access to the records requested.  He recommends that the Village release responsive records.
  • Review Report 110-2016 regarding a Freedom of Information Request for Pinehouse Business North Development Inc. and Pinehouse Business North Limited Partnership audited financial statements for 2013 and 2014 and quarterly financial statements for 2015.  After 38 days the Village denied access indicating that the responsive records were being withheld pursuant to subsection 17(1)(f) of LA FOIP.  The Information Commissioner found that the Village did not properly apply subsection 17(1)(f) of LA FOIP to the record and that the Village did not respond to the access to information request within the legislated timelines.  He recommends that the Village release the responsive records.