City Hall is either taking more restrictive measures to stop the flow of information getting out to the public, or can't get their message straight with its own workers.
All city employees now appear to be under a gag order when approached by the media.
The issue came to light this morning when we emailed a simple request to Al Tomek, Waste Management and Recycling Manager, about garbage pickup.
"I believe you should probably speak with Gord Young (Communications Director) as I believe the City wants everything to come from him," replied Tomek in denying our request.
We texted Mayor Al McDonald for an explanation but received no reply.
We also emailed Young asking if this is now official city policy.
"My role is to support City staff if they need it," Young replied. Those who may not be comfortable or are unsure about speaking to the media, or are asked questions outside their area, are advised that they can refer inquiries to myself or their supervisors."
That doesn't seem to square with Tomek's statement, and confirmed by a second city employee.
We asked Young for a copy of that employee policy but got no reply.
It signals a troubling trend of lack of transparency and accountability to the public by the City's politicians and staff.
The last five requests from BayToday to Young asking to speak with the mayor have proven fruitless. A phone message asking for clarification was not returned.
Asked why the mayor had time to spend on Facebook and Twitter but not respond to reporter's questions Young replied, "I don’t manage his schedule."
Recently Don Rennick was banned from asking any questions of city staff and told that he would be forced to go through the Freedom of Information Act to get any information.
BayToday emailed Young asking for an interview with the present CAO David Euler, but was denied a phone interview. Instead, we were told to provide specific questions in writing in advance and then answers would be emailed back. We declined, again requesting a phone interview but received no reply.
A direct approach to Euler yielded similar results.
Rennick, who has filed numerous FOIs about the City, North Bay Hydro and Invest North Bay is still banned from speaking during city council meetings. Mayor Al McDonald imposed the ban after Rennick implied staff was misleading councillors.
Rennick responded by attending the next meeting with his mouth duct-taped shut in protest of losing his freedom of speech.
City council has since imposed more restrictions on the public speaking before council including length of presentations, advance notice of what presenters want to say and a ban on anyone just showing up to say something that meeting.