Refusal to release info revisited

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THE City of Winnipeg is rethinking its refusal to divulge part of the rationale for pursuing the $210-million Winnipeg police headquarters project.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/01/2015 (2875 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE City of Winnipeg is rethinking its refusal to divulge part of the rationale for pursuing the $210-million Winnipeg police headquarters project.

In a report issued late last year, Manitoba’s ombudsman asked the city to revisit a decision to deny a Winnipeg Free Press request for documents that may reveal why city officials recommended buying and renovating the 56-year-old former Canada Post building instead of fixing the 48-year-old Public Safety Building.

The ombudsman found the city was within its right to deny access by invoking a discretionary exception under Manitoba’s freedom-of-information legislation known as “advice to a public body” — but also concluded the city didn’t exercise its discretion to refuse the request “in a reasonable fashion” and could have released several relevant documents. The ombudsman recommended the city revisit its decision to withhold access and reissue a rationale for making that decision. The city has advised it will comply by Feb. 11.

“The city is in the process of revisiting its discretion to withhold the requested information and will reissue its decision concerning access,” the ombudsman’s office wrote in a letter dated today.

The ombudsman’s report grew out of a February 2014 Free Press request for information that led city officials to recommend purchasing the Canada Post building in 2009 and renovating it into a new police headquarters instead of fixing the Public Safety Building.

The city denied access the following month, prompting the complaint to the ombudsman. After nine months of investigating, the ombudsman concluded while the city could invoke the “advice to a public body” exception, it did not provide any reason why it made that decision and predetermined its decision as a refusal. Mayor Brian Bowman made a campaign promise to stop the city from the frequent use of the discretionary exceptions as a means of denying access-to-information requests.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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