Rob Williams, president of the French Creek Residents Association, claims the Regional District of Nanaimo is refusing to release information on its efforts to purchase EPCOR’s water system in French Creek. - Submitted photo

French Creek Residents Association wants answers from RDN

Investigator appointed in case of EPCOR water system

British Columbia’s Information Privacy Commissioner has appointed an investigator to find out why the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is refusing to release information on its efforts to purchase EPCOR’s water system in French Creek.

“The RDN hasn’t said anything about what’s happening on this file in almost a year,” Rob Williams, president of the French Creek Residents Association, said in a news release Sunday. “We tried to get information from them and they refused, so we filed a complaint with the Information Privacy Commissioner. The employees of the RDN work for the taxpayers and we have a right to know what they’re doing with our money.”

RELATED: French Creek group wants answers from RDN

In 2015, research done by the French Creek Residents Association (FCRA) determined that taxpayers could actually save money if the RDN purchased the private EPCOR system and operated it as a public utility. In 2016, the FCRA approached the RDN with its research and the RDN, after obtaining a consultant’s report, began negotiations with EPCOR.

“The RDN claims that releasing its consultant’s report would jeopardize the negotiations,” Williams said. “But that’s ridiculous. The numbers aren’t secret. We gave them the numbers. And EPCOR has its own numbers. We just want to know what’s going on.”

RELATED: RDN presents letter of intent to buy water utility

In a letter dated Tuesday, June 4, Williams and Tricia Mayea, legislative co-ordinator for the RDN’s corporate services department, were informed by Olivia Comeau that she has been assigned to be the Investigator on the case.

In the letter, Comeau said she’s beginning a mediation process, “to facilitate a settlement of the issues in this case and to ensure that the applicant (the FCRA) has received access to all the information and records she/he is entitled to under FIPPA (the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act).”

If a settlement can’t be reached, she said, an inquiry may be held.

“We’re very heartened by the response from the Information Privacy Commissioner,” Williams said. “But we’re pretty disappointed with the RDN. They can end this at any time by giving us the information to which we and the rest of the taxpaying public are entitled.”

Jacquie Hill, Freedom of Information head with the RDN, said “the RDN acknowledges receipt of a Notice of Assignment of Investigator from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia and will work cooperatively with the investigator to facilitate a resolution on this matter.”

— NEWS staff, submitted

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