Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (June 2021)
In June 2018, former councillor Mr Lawrence Archer made an application to the Dorset Council for assessed disclosure. He sought a list of the monthly allowances and expenses incurred by individual elected members of Council, and copies of bank statements for Council credit cards used by the Mayor and General Manager.
Council refused to provide information regarding the councillors’ allowances and expenses, claiming that it was available to Mr Archer at a point in time (before he left Council) in what was known as Audit Panel papers. The Council refused to provide information requested about expenses outside of the Audit Papers, as it indicated that this was not able to be provided accurately. It also refused to provide the credit card statements pursuant to s20(b), as it stated that this was a vexatious request.
The Ombudsman determined that he had no jurisdiction to review Council’s decision to refuse allowance and expense information under s12(3)(c)(i). However, he found that the remainder of Mr Archer’s application should be reassessed in accordance with the provisions of the Act, as s20(b) did not apply and other information appeared to be able to be extracted and provided in accordance with s18(3).
Robin Smith and Launceston City Council (April 2021)
Mr Smith applied to Council for assessed disclosure of a wide variety of information regarding its City Heart redevelopment project. Council released some information and claimed some exemptions. This review concerned Mr Smith's request for '(3) Total expenditure on community engagement for City Heart planning.'
Council had decided this sought information not in its possession, but which would require analysis to produce. Council submitted that analysis was needed to extract and cost the time of its in-house staff and other Council resources spent on the community engagement / consultation.
Before the Ombudsman's decision, Council (consistently with s12) undertook analysis to produce answers to questions 3 and 4 of Mr Smith's request, annexed to the decision.
At Council's request, the Ombudsman made a determination. He ultimately concluded that, in undertaking its analysis to produce accurate answers to Mr Smith’s questions 3 and 4, Council (consistently with s12) went above and beyond its duty under s18(3). It was commended for doing so.
Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (December 2016)
Mr Billings (a journalist on ‘The Mercury’ newspaper) requested CCTV footage of an event at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in July 2016. The Ombudsman determined that the footage should not be released, as various exemption grounds under s30(1) of the Right to Information Act 2009 were satisfied. Under the Act, s30 exemptions are not subject to the public interest test at s33.