Investigation Concludes Disposal of Records Inappropriate But Not a Breach of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

February 11, 2000

Information and Privacy Commissioner Bob Clark publicly released Investigation Report 99-IR-003 today. The report concludes an investigation into a complaint that the County of Smoky Lake may have disposed records prior to the implementation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “FOIP Act”) in an attempt to evade future access requests.

On August 30, 1999, the Complainant hand-delivered a box of records to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Complainant claimed that these records were found in the town’s recycling bin, and requested an investigation into this matter.

The records contained personal information of County employees, councillors, property owners, and names of individuals.

The FOIP Act did not apply to municipalities until October 1, 1999. However, section 86(1)(e) and (2) came into force on June 1, 1994. Section 86(1)(e) states a person must not wilfully destroy any records subject to the FOIP Act with the intent to evade a request for access to the records. Under section 86(2), a person who commits such an offence would be liable to a fine of not more than $10,000.

The investigation found that section 86(1)(e) and (2) of the FOIP Act did not apply to the disposal of records. The records disposed of were copies. Master copies of these records are retained at the County Office, and may be requested through a formal access application under the FOIP Act.

The County of Smoky Lake acknowledged it erred in placing the records containing personal information in the recycle bin. As the disposal was prior to the October 1, 1999 implementation date, it cannot be a breach of the FOIP Act. However, the investigation found this form of disposal is not appropriate. By placing these records in the recycle bin, the County of Smoky Lake exposed its employees and members of the public to the risk that their personal   information may be improperly disclosed.

Since the incident, the County of Smoky Lake has undertaken measures to ensure that this does not happen again.