The SRD is trying to determine how much correspondence sent by members of the public can and should be made public by the regional district. File photo.

Strathcona Regional District still tackling how public emails from public should be made

Cortes director again cites emails from some residents sent to other SRD directors but not her

The question of how regional district directors share their correspondence is again on the agenda.

Area B Director Noba Anderson brought up the matter at the Jan. 25 board meeting. She had raised the question at a meeting in the fall in regard to who is supposed to see emails and general correspondence.

In a members’ report to the board, Anderson called into question the practice by which some board members receive correspondence from the public, but where the representative of that area has not been copied on the communication.

“It’s about an ongoing issue that has been discussed many times over many years here at the regional district board around the receipt of letters,” she said.

Specifically, she referred to emails sent to individual directors’ emails. In her report to the board, Anderson wrote, “One director in particular has received letters for years from Cortes residents, often bringing this up at board meetings, and has often been deeply swayed by a single piece of correspondence, choosing to not submit these for receipt claiming the need to protect the author’s privacy.

“Although this director has been asked by multiple board chairs and chief administrative officers to stop this practice, it persists. I know that many other directors have also, I trust to a lesser extent, received letters from Cortes residents, letters often not copied to myself.”

RELATED STORY: Questions arise about who’s seeing Strathcona Regional District emails

Also last fall the SRD brought up the matter of having directors use an official email address from the regional district, which would keep a record of correspondence in compliance with provincial freedom of information and privacy legislation. At that time, some board members expressed a wish to continue using their regular email address. Staff responded the SRD email could be forwarded to the personal email address, if a director chooses.

RELATED STORY: Email policy raises access questions at Strathcona Regional District board

Another concern raised at the board meeting was situations in which members of the public might want to protect their identity when communicating with a member of the board.

READ MORE: Parking garages still safer than email

At the latest meeting, Anderson again called for correspondence to be received into the public record. She said in some cases certain information could still be redacted, still allowing the item to be entered into the public record.

In her report, she also included two recent pieces of correspondence she received regarding recent events on Cortes Island in which residents had questions about proposed taxes that were to go to binding referenda after receiving voter assent in non-binding referendum questions last fall.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh asked for the issue to be moved to a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) session for board members on Feb. 28.

“I think we need some more clear guidelines on what is required,” she said. “I’d like to get more information from the FOIPPA workshop on how these things should be handled.”

Leigh added she receives hundreds of emails from many different people through different regions, adding that she has enough work to do for the 5,000 people in her electoral area, without asking for members of the public from other areas to contact her.

“I feel there’s no way I should be impugned for receiving letters that I’m not soliciting,” she said.

The motion to receive Anderson’s reported was accepted, as was a motion to the refer the matter to the upcoming FOIPPA session for SRD board members.

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