A request for access to Gympie council’s staff surveys is under review by the Office of the Information Commissioner.
A request for access to Gympie council’s staff surveys is under review by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Fight continues to pry secret staff surveys from council

WHAT do Gympie council staff think of the organisation?

This question has popped up several times in the past year from councillors and the community, and now the answer is one step closer to being revealed.

Following a request to review a refused request for the surveys made under the Right to Information Act by The Gympie Times, the Office of the Information Commission has revealed a preliminary view that favours the release of information.

In other words, it looks like The Gympie Times will have another Right to Information win over Gympie Regional Council.

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In the view, issued early this month in a letter, the OIC said The Gympie Times was “entitled to access the remaining information in issue except for certain personal information within the documents located by the council”.

What Gympie council’s staff thinks of the council is a question asked by community and councillors alike.
What Gympie council’s staff thinks of the council is a question asked by community and councillors alike.

“While it is my view that information about the results of council’s staff surveys can be disclosed, this view does not extend to the names, position titles or individual comments made by council staff” the preliminary report said.

The OIC is still awaiting any further submissions from the council, which “has indicated to the OIC that it does not accept our preliminary view that most of the information in issue can be disclosed”.

There is no explicit timeline for the resolution of the review, whether through a final decision or otherwise.

The Gympie Times asked for a copy of the 2011-2019 surveys to be released under the RTI act last August.

Councillors Hilary Smerdon, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Bob Leitch, Mick Curran, Bob Fredman, Mal Gear, Daryl Dodt and Mark McDonald debated releasing the surveys confidentially last year. A motion to release them to councillors was defeated 5-4.
Councillors Hilary Smerdon, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Bob Leitch, Mick Curran, Bob Fredman, Mal Gear, Daryl Dodt and Mark McDonald debated releasing the surveys confidentially last year. A motion to release them to councillors was defeated 5-4.

This request was the second attempt to gain access to the surveys.

In September, the council refused the request on the grounds the surveys were “conducted by a third party under contract with the council on the basis that the results of the surveys were to be made for internal use only” and exempt under the Act as “information disclosure would found a possible action for breach of confidence”.

In January last year, councillor Glen Hartwig moved for the surveys to be released to councillors confidentially.

This motion was defeated by 5-4, with deputy mayor Bob Leitch, Mark McDonald, Mal Gear and Mayor Mick Curran (who had a deciding second vote as chair) voting against it.

Mr Hartwig has made the reports’ release part of his mayoral election platform, calling it “essential” for councillors to have all the information.