Moose Jaw city council is facing online scrutiny this week over its decision to keep details of a serious personnel issue private.
The matter involves the Downtown Facilities and Fieldhouse (DFFH) board and was brought to the mayor on July 5. A two-month third-party investigation revealed governance issues, and found councillors Brian Swanson, Scott McMann and Crystal Froese failed to address the issue.
On Monday, the mayor and two remaining councillors voted unanimously to impose disciplinary sanctions on their colleagues. While council released the report, details what happened are being kept private to protect employees, according to the mayor.
Less than 12 hours later, deputy mayor Dawn Luhning addressed the online criticism over the limited public information.
“We have every right to do that in the case that we’ve been dealing with … the continual comments that we’re being secretive is just off-base,” she said.
“People tend to forget there are individuals involved in that facility, and individuals on the board, that we had to protect what was going on.”
On Wednesday, 980 CJME reached out to Saskatchewan privacy commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski for his perspective.
The commissioner is not connected to the case or privy to the details. The office investigates when a complaint is made regarding information obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP).
Kruzeniski explained part of Moose Jaw’s authority with FOIP involves protecting personal information, and this can intersect in a number of ways.
“In this case, you have three councillors (where) some of the information is personal to them. But on the other hand, they are part of the city council of Moose Jaw,” Kruzeniski said.
“The other part of it, there are employees of this particular board, and some of that information is personal to them, and under no circumstances would be released.”
He added something else to consider is whether the employees did — or would — consent to having their information released.
“There are some balancing aspects that they have to look at … the public interest, but is that too great an invasion of these employee’s personal information?”
Kruzeniski noted since the third-party investigation report is public, any other further documentation requested through FOIP is assessed by the local authority, which has 30 days to respond.
“If they decide not to release — or redacted information — and you disagreed with it, then you could file a complaint with our office,” Kruzeniski said.
On Tuesday, 980 CJME spoke with Moose Jaw Coun. Chris Warren, who noted not all feedback on the move to maintain confidentiality has been negative.
“People recognize that, again, these are tough decisions and we didn’t shy away,” he said Tuesday.
“I would ask the community to have some patience and just understand that some of the details that haven’t come out are to protect people’s rights.”