Up and up we go, until we arrive...at the top. That was pretty quick, now I'm getting somewhere. The person in charge of 311, Linda Black. The “Acting Manager,” in Part 2, to recap, lied to me and provided me with false information before refusing to communicate with me any further.
The following series of emails are very, very lengthy.
I have been directed to you from 311 acting manager Joel Knockaert, after many questions and great reluctance. Can you please confirm that you are, in fact, the privacy officer or coordinator for 311, as Joel has a history of providing me with false information.
How does somebody make a complaint about a violation of the Privacy Act with you? Is it in person or in writing? Is there a form? How much detail is required with the initial contact, (all emails? or just a summary?). Who investigates it? How is it conducted - person to person interviews, all written material? How long does the process take?
A separate issue I require clarification for is who do I complain to about Joel Knockaert, and through him the 311 system, with respect to a request I made to have a letter delivered to the City Auditor?
And again, could you tell me: Is it in person or in writing? Is there a form? How much detail is required with the initial contact, (all emails? or just a summary?). Who investigates it? How is it conducted - person to person interviews, all written material? How long does the process take?
I would also like to know who will answer the eight questions I have posed to Joel that he has refused to answer or provided false information for. Who would that person be, and what would their relationship to Joel be? Would it be independent?
As time is of the essence, can you please assign this information and questions I have in this email a high priority, and get back to me as soon as possible.
Thank you very much for your time,
Vacation, vacation. Everyone uses August for vacation!
Out of Office AutoReply: Complaint and unanswered questions from 311
I will be out of the office from August 16 - September 7, 2010.
For the week of August 16 - 27, please contact Brian Rosenberg A/Director at 986-4214 for assistance.
Brian Rosenberg, as it turns out, is Linda Black's deputy. It would become very clear very quickly that Brian, a Business Tech guy, writes conspicuously like a lawyer. Despite the charade, it is also clear that he is in fact not a lawyer, as a lawyer would have undoubtedly kept one thought at the back of his mind: I am speaking on behalf of Linda Black.
I had to read this probably close to 9 times over and over, just to comprehend it so I could collect my thoughts and write up a response.
I have thoroughly reviewed the comments in your email to me dated August 18, 2010, and I am providing the following to bring this matter to conclusion.
To begin, I would like to point out for context that, when a person sends electronic communication to a non-personal mailbox like 311, there is no capability to ensure only one specific City employee (in your case, the City Auditor) would be the only City employee to read the message. Given the nature of your request, the 311 Customer Service Representative (CSR) who handled your email message determined the most appropriate recipient of the message.
As the 311 website indicates:
“The implementation of the 311 consolidated Contact Centre is intended to enhance the quality of service provided by the City of Winnipeg. In the majority of cases, our highly trained CSRs will be able to provide the answer to your question, however, should you require additional service/information, our CSRs will be happy to generate a request for the department to contact you directly.”
Given that our CSRs are expected to route calls to the most appropriate recipient based upon established processes and scripting, it is hoped that citizens recognize that the calls and messages may need to be routed to others for effective handling. For that reason, these communications do not reasonably attract an expectation of privacy.
That being said, citizens who feel aggrieved by the City’s administration of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) are entitled to complain about a City response. As noted in Mr. Knockaert’s response to you on August 17, 2010, there are two avenues open to citizens under FIPPA, as per the following two excerpts:
1. Section 1(1) of the City of Winnipeg FIPPA By-law http://www.winnipeg.ca/CLKDMIS/DocExt/ViewDoc.asp?DocumentTypeId=1&DocId=1942 “The director of each department of the City is hereby designated as the head of the local public body for The City of Winnipeg for their department for the purposes of the Act.”
2. Section 59(3) of FIPPA
“An individual who believes that his or her own personal information has been collected, used or disclosed in violation of Part 3 may make a complaint to the Ombudsman….“
In your email, you asked who the privacy officer is for our Department. There is not a position of “privacy officer” per se in our Department. As per the first excerpt above, the head of a department is designated as the head of the public body for the purposes of the Act; this may be what you are referring to by use of the term “privacy officer.”
By writing to Ms Black, Director of Corporate Support Services, you have made use of the option outlined in the first excerpt (s.1(1) of the By-law, director designated as head, or “privacy officer” if you prefer). Ms Black, in her absence, has delegated her responsibilities to me; therefore, for the time being, I fulfill the role under s.1(1) above. I want to emphasize that your writing to Ms Black/me does not in any way prevent you from using the option in the second excerpt (that is; s.59 (3) of FIPPA, a complaint to the provincial Ombudsman).
On your question of how to report a complaint against Mr. Knockaert, Ms Black is his supervisor and would receive such a complaint, investigate it, and act on the results of the investigation. If you wish to file a formal complaint you may do so on paper or via email. No form is necessary; you would simply list the facts of the complaint, in as much detail as possible, providing any supporting documentation you feel is relevant. The timeline and other related components for completing review of such a complaint (interviews or other activities) is not definite, however, we would assure you it would be within a reasonable time frame that allowed review of all pertinent details.
From review of your correspondence it appears you wish to request that the City Auditor undertake this investigation. In that regard, you may already be aware that direct contact can be made between you and his Office through the City website at: http://www.winnipeg.ca/audit/ .
As another note, in your correspondence, you have specifically referred to The Privacy Act. This is an entirely different piece of provincial legislation from FIPPA, though both Acts relate to privacy.
The Privacy Act, however, does not create any complaint resolution mechanism, nor does it mandate any response by the City. It clarifies the common law relating to privacy, and allows an aggrieved person to bring a private action in the Court of Queen’s Bench for a remedy, as excerpted below:
Violation of privacy
2(1) A person who substantially, unreasonably, and without claim of right, violates the privacy of another person, commits a tort against that other person.
Action without proof of damage
2(2) An action for violation of privacy may be brought without proof of damage.
4(1) In any action for violation of privacy the court may
(a) award damages;
(b) grant an injunction if it appears just and reasonable;
(c) order the defendant to account to the plaintiff for any profits that have accrued, or that may subsequently accrue, to the defendant by reason or in consequence of the violation; and
(d) order the defendant to deliver up to the plaintiff all articles or documents that have come into his possession by reason or in consequence of the violation.
Neither Ms Black (nor me in her absence), nor anyone at the City of Winnipeg, is designated to receive complaints related to violation of privacy pursuant to the Privacy Act. If a complaint were to be sent to Ms Black, she could act upon it to resolve the situation. However, any remedy beyond that must be sought through a private action in court or a complaint to the Ombudsman.
From my review, which included reading various email exchanges between Mr. Knockaert and you, I am satisfied that Mr. Knockaert has provided complete, accurate responses to your inquiries. Therefore, I have not revisited those questions in this communication.
In closing, I have explained the process for making a complaint against our employee, Mr. Knockaert, adding that we are not able to provide a definitive timeline on investigating such a complaint, until we receive all the pertinent details and can assess the time required to review them fully.
Further, I have also explained the avenues available for you making a complaint about an alleged breach of privacy, through either FIPPA or The Privacy Act. If you wish to pursue your complaint about privacy, I recommend that you pursue the formal complaint mechanisms of the provincial Ombudsman (re FIPPA) or court process (re The Privacy Act), of which I have advised you above. I should also point out that the City is not in the position to advise on the timelines and other aspects associated with those processes.
If you bothered to read that, congratulations. I'll sum it up: 3/4 of it is about privacy violations, and that it would seem Linda Black is the “privacy officer” for 311, which would mean Brian, in her absence, becomes the “privacy officer.” If I want to file a complaint I can do so via email and there isn't really a complaint process. Shades of the Parking Authority. I just submit it and...somebody looks into it. Which is why Joel Knockaert was able to investigate “Mr Undisclosed” and determine so quickly if any wrongdoing had happened. Of course there wasn't. And of course, Brian would do the same thing and clear Joel of any allegations I was making.
Funny how Brian here really goes out of his way to ensure I understand that the service reps are very highly trained. You don't say? If service reps are so highly trained as to judge where an inquiry that is labelled FOR A SPECIFIC PERSON should go then 311 probably operates pretty smoothly, doesn't it? They may be highly trained, I don't know. But “Mr Undisclosed” either doesn't have reading comprehension skills, or simply, cannot read at all. Neither does Joel Knockaert, or as it turns out, Brian Rosenberg, either.
Just like Joel did (see Part 2), after a set of emails he provided me with the City Auditor's email. Again, Brian is providing me with the same contact info for the City Auditor, telling me I can contact him myself. Neither Joel, nor Brian, as it would seem, see any problem with NOT forwarding my query to the Auditor, then later telling me I can do it myself.
Nobody wants to admit fault! Come ON guys! How much more simple can it GET? You needed to write up this huge email explaining all this to me, and nobody over there within the 311 bureaucracy has the balls to APOLOGIZE?! Here, I'll help you through the thought process, Joel and Brian!
Email received from citizen: For City Auditor.
Action: Send to AT Coordinator.
Email received from citizen: HEY HOW COME YOU DIDN'T SEND IT TO THE AUDITOR!?
Action: Because we can't and he doesn't take queries from the public.
Email received from citizen: YES he DOES, it says so...ON YOUR WEBSITE.
Action: No, sorry, you're wrong. It doesn't actually say that.
Email received from citizen: Huh? Yes, it DOES.
Action: Fine. Email him yourself then. We could have, but chose not to.
What is going on over there in 311 that someone can look at these series of emails, in this case that person is Brian, and honestly reply to me that THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE WAY MY CONCERNS WERE HANDLED?! Joel provided me with complete, accurate answers? YOU'VE GOT to be KIDDING me!
Holy fucking 311, Batman. Where can I get a job like that?! Where I can provide false information, then contradict myself, then tell someone to screw off, and and my superior will tell the customer I PROVIDED COMPLETE , ACCURATE ANSWERS?!
...Very highly trained...INDEED!
Yikes, crickey, my goodness, was that email from Brian ever a headache to make heads or tails out of, and then come up with a response.
I understand why you are anxious to run as far as possible from the evidence that a city employee deliberately intercepted and redirected communication addressed to the independent city auditor, then provided false information to justify his actions. But I assure you this matter is far, far from concluded .
In fact, you yourself have raised several serious aspects of the matter, which require clarification before I take further actions.
So that there is absolutely no misunderstanding, I wish you to please take this opportunity to correct me where I am wrong.
"From my review, which included reading various email exchanges between Mr. Knockaert and you, I am satisfied that Mr. Knockaert has provided complete, accurate responses to your inquiries. Therefore, I have not revisited those questions in this communication."
Having read the email exchanges, you know that Joel Knockaert informed me 311 had redirected my email to the city auditor because "The role of the City Auditor is not to deal with public complaints."
With your intimate knowledge of the city website, you know that his statement is absolutely false and the exact opposite is true. The city auditor accepts and even welcomes complaints from the public.
When Joel was asked why he provided an answer that contradicted the city website, he raised a red herring about whether the auditor is obligated to investigate a complaint, then he directed me to complain to the city auditor, something I had obviously already done and which was originally blocked by 311.
Yet according to you, providing this false information is considered providing a complete, accurate response by 311. Do you dispute this conclusion?
You will also note that I asked for the name of the privacy co-ordinator for 311 so I could make a formal complaint about a breach of my privacy rights. Joel did not provide that information.
Yet according to you, this refusal to provide information which must be provided by law is a complete, accurate response by 311. Again, is that not a correct conclusion?
The city website says the city auditor is independent of the civil service. Yet you say the civil service can block all communications to the city auditor. Do you inform him when you intercept an email addressed to the city auditor and redirect it? Or is he kept in the dark by 311 staff?
These are not rhetorical questions. Please provide answers.
Regarding the issue of privacy: you said there is no capability to ensure an email for the city auditor sent to 311 is read only by the city auditor. But there is a capability for the person tasked with reading the email to send it along to the person for whom it is addressed.
The 311 CSR would, I assume, not be taking notes or making copies of the email. So for him to see the name of the person to whom it's addressed and then send it along is not a breach of privacy. That, sir, is a capability called common sense.
But instead you have the CSR read the email, thereby breaching my private communication, then send it along to someone who I have not authorized to read it.
You think this is perfectly acceptable because the CSR is "highly trained" to "route calls to the most appropriate recipient".
My email was NOT a call. The most appropriate recipient was the person it was addressed to.
I was NOT asking for information, I was asking the city auditor to undertake a value audit, something nobody else in the civil service could do. I had EVERY expectation of privacy.
I asked Joel the following and I cannot find where his "complete, accurate responses" provided me with the answers. Now I am asking you:
Under what pretense did 311 divert my email for the Auditor?
Is there a written directive? Signed by whom?
If there is, you will have no difficulty providing me with a copy.
By what authority are you intercepting private communications to him?
By what authority are you able to judge which department an inquiry goes to, despite being addressed to a specific person in a specific department?
Lastly, please provide me with the disclaimer you read to, or somehow else provide to, citizens who contact 311, advising them how their personal information will be collected and distributed at the discretion of an anonymous employee.
Do you have a legal opinion regarding the practice of 311 and whether it breaches the privacy rights of citizens. I'm not asking for the actual legal opinion at this time, just if you have one.
Now I am not looking forward to Brian's next response because, frankly, that last one was so ridiculous that I don't think I could handle another one. Ugh.
This is in response to your email dated Aug 24th 2010.
In my email sent to you on August 23, 2010 I provided information, and highlighted the mechanisms or processes open to you as a citizen with regard to your complaint.
Respectfully, I suggest that you pursue the options open to you, as I do not feel our Department has anything further to add at this time.
No WAY. No WAY! I can't make this stuff UP! This isn't FICTION! Brian pulled the plug on me even earlier than Joel did, and when faced with accusations and statements such as the ones I made, he turtles and tries to end the whole debacle by telling me to go back to his last email. Maybe I'll just...GO AWAY. So they can get back to their jobs, not using up any more man-hours to compile responses to me. Wishes don't do dishes!
So here I am, asking new, legitimate questions. I think that's important here. Because although I am venting, calling them on their bullshit, I am also asking new questions, or reiterating questions that went unanswered/ignored. I'm continuing the dialogue, you know, if your answer is this, then okay can I have your written directives?
Well...no, no I can't. Joel provided me remember, with complete, accurate responses. Brian's response to more questions is: no, go back to my last email. Unbelieveable. Un. Be. Leiveable.
I'm going to call him on his bullshit one more time, because I just can't believe it.
First, thank you for your prompt response. Second, let me tell you that you underestimate your contribution.
I could not have been any clearer in my Aug. 23 email. I asked your help to make sure there was no misunderstanding on my part when I concluded that, according to you, providing false information to citizens, interfering with emails sent to civic officials, and refusing to provide the name of the "Privacy officer" as required by law is considered "a complete, accurate response by 311." I asked you to indicate where you disagreed with my conclusions and to correct me if I was wrong.
You now say you have nothing further to add, hence acknowledging that my conclusions are the correct ones.
I must say I am astonished and more than a little dismayed. I believe that your attitude towards the duty of 311 operators and yourself to be honest with citizens must be distributed as widely as possible.
I will need the contact information for your immediate superior. I will contact them first to confirm whether you speak for them when you say giving false information is proper behavior.
I also need you to tell me (without, I hope, giving me false information) which city committee 311 answers to.
Every city councillor on that committee and the mayor must be made aware of your attitude towards the citizens of this city and your arrogance regarding the duty of 311 employees.
I trust you will be as prompt with your reply as before. Thank you.
PS. You stated that Kevin Nixon investigated my complaint about MARR Consulting (a complaint I never made to him). I assume there is a written report which you will provide to me. I have already filed a FOI for everything pertaining to me and this report would not have been written without me, would it?
Hiding things. Covering up for other employee's mistakes. Providing false information. Passing judgement on my email and it's subject. Violating my privacy by giving my information to someone whom it was not intended. Covering up more employee incompetence. Refusing to reply to emails. Refusing to answer questions. Pass the buck, pass the buck.
Joel played the “stall” card, right? Yup. Soooo does Brian. And over what kinds of things does he stall?
I did not hear back from you today about my two requests for information, in reply to your latest email. To refresh your memory, they were:
1. " I will need the contact information for your immediate superior."
2. " I also need you to tell me ... which city committee 311 answers to."
I am sure there is very little research required for you to provide me with the answers. So a reply is expected.
Stalls to tell me his supervisor and what comittee resides over 311. I'm telling you, I can NOT make this shit up.
Passing the buck.
My immediate superior is Linda Black, Director of Corporate Support Services, tel. 986-2379, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Politically, 311 reports to Executive Policy Committee.
Really, he was holding out on me for that? Sheeeeeeeeeesh.
Utter disbelief, that's the state I'm in now. Actually it's the state I've been in on this subject since ending correspondence with Brian. Just...disbelief.
And so I contacted the City Clerks to see about getting on the floor at the next EPC meeting. City Clerks told me that EPC is not the right path for me at this point, unless I am suggesting policy changes, and in that case, I would need permission from the Mayor's Office as 311 is not and will not be on the agenda likely, any time soon.
I realize I was only asking for information, but I couldn't help but be baffled a bit by something the City Clerk had told me: that I had not exhausted all of my options and that I had not done all I possibly could to resolve the situation internally.
Heh. Yeah, they're right. I've yet to get to Mr Laubenstein but...that I had not done all I possibly could? I'm kinda being interfered with there. The people involved in this case aren't helping me out one, tiny, bit. They are attempting to make my investigation and requests as difficult as possible, and two different people in the chain of command have now tried to make me and this issue...dissapear. 311 should adopt a new slogan, perhaps.
Be forewarned, we do not have a policy, nor writtten directive, to apologize or accept responsibility, for any wrongful actions.