12/9/2013Canada: Ombudsman Allows City To Hide Traffic Camera Data
Manitoba, Canada Ombudsman allows Winnipeg to withhold draft speed camera report and related documents.
The Manitoba, Canada Ombudsman on Friday released his findings that allow the city of Winnipeg to hide documents that would reveal whether the city attempted to manipulate a report on the effectiveness of its speed camera program. For more than two years, Winnipeg has hidden communications between city officials and the Traffic Injury Reasearch Foundation (TIRF), only selectively releasing certain information.
Winnipeg paid TIRF $75,000 to create a report showing the value of the photo radar program, which was issued on July 5, 2011. The city refused a public records request for a draft version that had been circulated among officials since March 2011, claiming that it had been supplied "in confidence." The documents would show what influence the city had in changing the report between the March draft and the final report released four months later.
"The responsive records in this case consist of a large number of email and other communications, drafts of the report, references relied on in the report as well as the project outline (work plan) and the work order/receipt for the project," Ombudsman Mel Holley wrote in his report. "The emails and other communications are between employees of the public body and TIRF, with a smaller number of communications involving Manitoba Public Insurance, Manitoba Justice and Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation."
The ombudsman reviewed the records and evaluated the excuses Winnipeg gave for denying access and found that the city was being evasive in some minor cases.
"For some examples we described having cross-referenced information withheld in this case with information released (rather than withheld) in response to a different application," Holley wrote. "Other examples identified that certain information that had been withheld had been found, on our review of public sources, to be publicly available."
After being confronted by the ombudsman on these issues, the city in July 2012 released additional documentation. On the more important question of the draft report, however, the ombudsman refused to order its release.
"Some of the information may also be considered scientific and/or technical in nature, to the extent that it includes analyses of scientific research and/or relates to the methodology and results of TIRF's own experiments," Holley wrote. "Our review of the records showed that as drafts were provided, TIRF clearly expressed to the Winnipeg Police Service that it expected that drafts would be kept confidential."
The ombudsman refused to disclose what sections of the final report remained unchanged, and he also refused to allow release of emails discussing changes to the final report.
"Other information withheld from the emails is substantive analysis and opinions expressed by TIRF in relation to various aspects of research about photo-enforcement and other road-safety issues," Holley wrote. "Again, this represents the application of TIRF's professional expertise and would be considered commercial and in some cases technical and/or scientific information of TIRF."
A copy of the report is available in a 130k PDF file at the source link below.