Penticton changing FOI process

City’s corporate officer will take over the responsibilities to administer freedom of information for Penticton

Karen Burley won’t have long to enjoy her new responsibilities as administrator of freedom of information for the City of Penticton.

The city’s corporate officer had responsibility for FOI requests added to her list of duties Monday evening, when city council voted to do away with the current committee method of dealing with such requests.

But while Burley is leaving her position as the city’s corporate officer on Feb. 22, the FOI responsibilities will remain part of the duties of the position to be passed on to her replacement.

The former bylaw governing the FOI act in Penticton was adopted by the city in 1994 and required a team of people to administer, consisting of a council member, corporate officer and human resources officer.

“This makes the processing of any requests somewhat cumbersome,” said Burley, explaining that since it is the corporate officer who has the responsibility to ensure that access is provided to records of councils and committees, it’s common for them also to be designated as the person responsible for administering FOI legislation.

Council had few concerns about the change: Coun. Wes Hopkin wondered about how an information request regarding a staffing issue would be handled, without the Human Resources manager having direct input.

“The legislation is pretty prescriptive in that there is very few things that can be omitted,” said Burley. “Certainly, it can be vetted and if needed, referred for advice.”

Coun. John Vassilaki was only concerned that FOI requests be handled as speedily as possible, rather than waiting the maximum amount of time allowed under the legislation.

“We do that, contrary to what was happening before from the past council,” said Mayor Dan Ashton. “We make sure that goes out as quickly as possible at the direction of our CEO. That doesn’t happen anymore. “