In a decision that will be of interest to public institutions across Ontario, the IPC has ordered the city of Oshawa to issue an access decision about an email that Councillor Nancy Diamond sent using her personal email account. The email asked an investigator for feedback on the terms of his eventual hiring by the city. The city argued that since the Councillor did not use the city’s server to send the email, the email was not covered by Ontario’s access-to-information laws. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Commissioner Beamish said, “It’s not a matter of what email was used or what device was used. If the matter relates to city business, it’s subject to the act. I think this will help clarify for everybody that you’re not avoiding access-to-information legislation simply because you use your own device or your own private email account.”
The Commissioner further added that there is a need for greater education so that elected officials, government staff and public employees understand their obligation to make relevant information available to the public. “If it’s public business, the basic principle is it should be accessible or potentially accessible to the public through the freedom-of-information process.”
For further information, please see IPC municipal order MO-3281.