Information Request from the HCDSB Could Cost You $5700

A retired HCDSB employee was facing a complaint from the College of Teachers back in 2010 and suspected his boss, Director Mike Paulter, had something to do with it. In 2013, his last year before retirement, he decided he'd file a Freedom of Information request to see if his boss had mentioned his name to the College of Teachers. He wasn't expecting more than a few emails if any. A one page FOI request form and five dollars later was all it took to get the ball rolling. By FOI rules the school board had to reply to the request within 30 calender days to say if they had found anything and if they would be releasing the requested information.

Non Communications and Delays
It takes the school board the full 30 days to respond and when they do they want to know if his request includes "non-communications" and state they will need a time extension. The employee wonders who in their right mind would ever define a record of any kind as a non- communications? The FOI Act, aka the Municipal Freedom if Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) clearly defines what a record is and makes no mention of non-communications. He writes back the next day asking them to define what they mean by "non-communications". Within 24 hours he receives a second letter from a more senior HR person, this time with a cost estimate for $2500. It also explains that non-communications (an invented term) refers to records other than letters and emails. An appeal is launched over the cost and a third HR person takes over the file months later and raises the cost to a jaw dropping $5700. In the interim the HCDSB also hired a specialist Toronto lawyer to help out with this request. Affidavits were taken from 3 information technology employees who were asked to restore the sent email files of former Director Mike Pautler. Why they were asked to restore just the sent emails is not explained. It seems some sent emails of Director Pautler could not be recovered or in other words, lost. In light of the recent Star articles concerning FOI requests at the TDSB and how trustees and others may have tampered with an FOI request it seems rather likely that the HCDSB uses the very same playbook referred to by experts quoted in the Star articles.

Obfuscate and Appeal 
An appeal was filed in the spring of 2014 over the cost. Submissions were sent to the Information and Privacy Commissioner by the HCDSB at a cost of thousands. It has now been 13 months since the request was filed. A decision is expected in November and should be available here at the IPC website

As always the HCDSB NEWS invites your corrections, comments and criticisms and any replies received from people or institutions mentioned in any article will be published in full.