In response to an FOI, Vancouver's top bureaucrat told staff she sent no emails from her City account in December '08
A while back, CityCaucus.com asked for a copy of Vancouver City Manager Penny Ballem's emails for the first few weeks she was on the job. We reported a while back the Manager, Corporate Information and Privacy told us Ms. Ballem had advised him she didn't send any email from her city email account. Therefore, you can imagine our surprise when FedEx dropped off a box from the City Clerk's office to CityCaucus.com tower with all of Ballem's emails - and it was empty.
The Manager advised us that Ballem had chosen to use a private email provider (outside the reach of the provincial freedom of information legislation) instead of her City of Vancouver email account. We then asked if the City could confirm through records on their computer servers whether in fact Ms. Ballem had ever sent out any emails from her City account during the period in question. We were told no.
As a result of this lack of cooperation from the City regarding our request, we can now confirm the issue of whether Ballem did in fact send any email during the month of December is now before the Privacy Commissioner to investigate. It's known as case # F09-38011. We're confident that he will agree with us that the lack of response regarding our FOI request for the City Manager's emails warrants at least a cursory check into the computer system to determine if in fact any emails were sent or received during the month of December.
We also would like to get a ruling regarding whether it was appropriate for the City's top public servant to be using an insecure private email provider which is outside the reach of provincial private legislation to conduct official business.
It is interesting to note that as a result of another FOI we filed regarding email from Laurie Best, Director of Communications, we can officially confirm that Ballem was in fact using her personal email account during the month of December to do city business.
Take for an example on December 15th, the City Manager sent an email using her private email account to an assistant regarding a media request from CBC radio. Ms. Ballem emailed her at 2:22 pm and stated "Lets book this sometime toward the end of the week." However, this email never showed up in our initial FOI request to the City asking for copies of Ballem's email.
You would think that in response to our FOI the City would have taken a few moments to look into their computer records and found at least this one email from the City Manager. Rather, we had to stumble upon it through a completely separate request. This is one of the reasons we have filed our request for an investigation by the provincial Privacy Commissioner.
We will keep all of our readers posted as the Privacy Commissioner begins his investigation into our request for Ms. Ballem's emails for the month of December. Stay tuned for more on OIPC File F09-38011.
And thanks again to our many readers who have contributed to our special FOI fund. Your generosity will help CityCaucus.com find out important details on this story.