A local citizen that has been asking City Hall staff pointed questions about the city's finances has been blacklisted.
Don Rennick received an email from CAO David Euler telling him not to bother calling anymore, but to start filing Freedom of Information requests instead, causing more paperwork for both Rennick and the City.
"In general, staff will no longer be responding to your emails," CAO David Euler, wrote in a Jan. 16 email to Rennick. "Please follow the FOI request procedure and we will respond accordingly as required under the regulations."
Rennick thinks he's being blocked from asking questions because the City is embarrassed by the answers.
"I'm asking the tough questions, questions they don't want to answer because they don't want anybody to know. So they think by making it more difficult I'll get tired of doing it and they're probably hoping they can pull the same BS that Hydro did, trying to characterize my questions as frivolous or vexatious. That's what cost us $69,000 at Hydro,"
The $69,000 is what North Bay Hydro has spent on lawyers trying to block Rennick's efforts to dig up details of Hydro's controversial purchase of Espanola Hydro last year.
See: North Bay Hydro purchase of Espanola facility is 'empire building'
Rennick says he's not surprised by Euler's email because he wasn't getting any answers anyway, and the ones he got left him shaking his head. And he says he's not really sure if he's the only one being targetted.
"I don't know. I think anybody that asks questions of City Hall is going to be targetted. It's me because I'm the one asking the questions but anyone asking those questions would get the same treatment."
Rennick says he'll comply with Euler's email and start sending in FOIs to City Hall instead.
"What I used to do before is I would ask whoever a question and they wouldn't answer or wouldn't give me a straight answer. And so then I'd issue an FOI, so no, I won't ask them first I'm just going to send an FOI and they'll have to deal with it within 30 days."
He says that is more work and money for both himself and the City.
"Absolutely. If I'd asked a simple question and got a simple answer it's no big deal. But if I have to send an FOI, which is five bucks, and they don't answer me I have to appeal it, which is 25 dollars."
Rennick says that can add up quickly.
BayToday reached out to both Mayor Al McDonald and Euler to clarify if this was a new city policy or if just one person was being targetted. McDonald did not reply.
City Communications Officer Gord Young, replied by email that Mr. Euler would only respond by email and requested specific questions be submitted in advance. BayToday responded by asking for an in-person interview or by telephone but received no reply.
Instead, Euler emailed, "The Corporation of the City of North Bay does not publicly comment on its dealings with members of the public out of respect for personal privacy and in observance of provincial legislation, namely the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act."
See: Council's most vocal critic surprised North Bay wasn't ranked first in the secrecy sweepstakes
And: North Bay gets 'honourable mention' in Code of Silence awards for government secrecy
Young was asked by BayToday why the CAO would agree to comment via email, but not in person, however, we received no reply.