City Hall as a sealed fortress: a small victory against Vision's secrecy
The staff here at CityCaucus Tower held back tears of joy at a small victory for accountability at Vancouver City Hall. We reported last June about how a deliberate attempt was made by the Mayor's office & City Manager to hide Olympic party guest lists at the lacklustre Vancouver House venue. Our story about the blacked out Vancouver House guest lists, with several members of the FD Element crew penciled in, was featured on GlobalTV News Hour.
We challenged the decision by the City of Vancouver to redact the names of the guests with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia (OIPC). We have recently learned that the OIPC has ruled in our favour, and the City of Vancouver will have to release the full list of names who got to attend the exclusive taxpayer-funded parties at Vancouver House as per our original request.
The City so far has been dragging their heels after learning the OIPC Commissioner's ruling, but they have until Friday to release the full 32-page list. If they do not, then the Commissioner's office will begin a formal inquiry.
CityCaucus.com has had several active files processed by the Privacy Commissioner's office. We are about to file two more complaints. All are as a result of Vision Vancouver's "sealed fortress" approach to openness and transparency.
We're also pleased to report that another letter from the OIPC came through our mail slot late today. This time it was in reference to an FOI we placed regarding a contract that was provided to Sierra Systems by the City of Vancouver to conduct the Core Services Review.
We had been told the contract information was off limits and that Sierra Systems was appealing our FOI request. Well, today we were told:
On February 1, 2011 this office was notified that the third party does not wish to proceed with this inquiry and confirms that it is withdrawing its request for review with this office. Since there are no further issues for the Information and Privacy Commissioner to dispose of, this inquiry has been cancelled.
It would appear from the notification letter that we will be able to provide our readers with information regarding the Sierra Systems contract after all. Stay tuned for more info on that front.
Here below is our CityCaucus Redux post of our original June 21, 2010 post about the Vancouver House hidden guest list...
When it came to the Olympic hosting, Mayor Gregor Robertson made big promises that the hundreds of prime seats the City of Vancouver bought for Olympic competitions and the wads of cash wasted on Vancouver House would pay off big for taxpayers.
The payoff it seems went to Vision Vancouver political insiders and pals (see a photo from the party). The fact is that in spite of the best efforts of several reporters including 24 Hours' Bob Mackin, the City and the Vancouver Economic Development Commission has refused to provide detailed lists of who got free tickets during the 2010 Games. Information requests to the VEDC's acting CEO have received no response after several weeks. And furthermore, the City's showcase pavilion – the dud venue known as Vancouver House – was in effect turned into a gathering place for Vision to fête political supporters.
Back on March 4th CityCaucus.com requested the list of invitees to the series of private receptions held at Vancouver House. We just received the response last Friday – that's June 18th! And lo and behold, it's 32 pages of blacked-out sheets. Apparently Vancouverites are not allowed to see who Vision invited to these taxpayer-funded bashes.
A city news release sent out prior to the opening stated that Vancouver House would "play host to a number of international business leaders at events coordinated through the Vancouver Economic Development Commission... to encourage new investment." That didn't happen however. Instead we saw Vancouver House host locals, including a labour night (Feb. 16), Filipino-Canadian night (Feb. 18) and Indo-Canadian night (Feb. 22).
One company that scored big was FD Element, the company we reported had registered "mayorofvancouver.ca" for Gregor Robertson and was hired by the Mayor's office to build his website. According to the guest list, they attended so many events the company practically had its office moved to Vancouver House.
While it's not unusual for sitting governments to throw parties for friends, it is unusual that they would make an effort to hide this information from the public. Furthermore, it's pretty clear that during all those days and nights Vancouver House was closed to the public for these private parties, not a lot of "international business leaders" were present.
In fact, it appears that no international business leaders ever attended these events at all.
So what did Vancouver get for what they spent on Vancouver House? Apparently a whole lot of photographs of Gregor Robertson. Robertson's office hired a full time photographer to tag along with Gregor during the Games.
CityCaucus.com plans to challenge the decision [note: we challenged an won] not to release the names on the Vancouver House guest list, and we'll provide it to our readers as soon as we are able.
- post by Mike