A lawyer with the City of Ottawa was active in community activities, and with permission of his employer spent some time on those activities at the office. His email to and from one of the charities became the subject of an access to information request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). He resisted disclosure of the emails on the ground that they had nothing to do with government business, the disclosure of which was the purpose of the Act.
The Information and Privacy Commissioner held in April 2009 that the emails must be disclosed: Order MO-2408 [PDF] dated April 9, 2009.
The Divisional Court has now reversed that decision, holding that MFIPPA did not extend to personal communications just because they were stored on a government computer. City of Ottawa v. Ontario, 2010 ONSC 6835. The court held that the documents were not in the custody or control of the City, even though they were on its computer. Further, subjecting personal documents (electronic or paper-based) to access requests would hurt the privacy rights of the employees.
This seems right to me. Otherwise community organizations and charities would not want public-sector directors or even volunteers if their private communications were subject to disclosure by what I think is a collateral attack through access to public information laws.
Do you agree? What’s the other side?