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Harvey's departure remains a mystery

It’s been roughly seven months since former Pembina Hills school division Supt. Richard Harvey left and residents of the area are not much closer to learning why.

It’s been roughly seven months since former Pembina Hills school division Supt. Richard Harvey left and residents of the area are not much closer to learning why.

Staff at the Westlock News are still working through a request for information via the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act.

The most recent development is a response from the Alberta FOIP commissioner’s office upholding the school division’s fee assessment of close to $4,000 to provide documents relating to Harvey’s departure.

The issue first arose in late October, when the Westlock News and the Barrhead Leader learned that Harvey left his post on a leave of absence Sept. 29.

Pembina Hills issued a four-sentence press release Oct. 25 that said simply that Harvey was no longer an employee of the division as of Saturday, Oct. 23.

Harvey had been scheduled to retire at the end of 2010, and his Oct. 16 retirement party was postponed indefinitely. Staff at the Barrhead Leader learned Harvey had packed up and left his home on Oct. 22.

The division has not been forthcoming with any information relating to Harvey’s departure, and the Westlock News filed a FOIP request in November. The request asked for, among other things, copies of e-mails to and from Harvey leading up to his departure and anything else that might shed light on the issue.

The division responded to the request by providing a fee estimate to produce the documents that totals $3,916.25.

This fee estimate includes $918 to locate and retrieve the records, $432 for “producing a record from an electronic record,” $381.25 to produce a paper copy of the records, $2,025 to prepare and handle the records, $135.00 to supervise the examination of the records and $25 for shipping.

The Westlock News request the fees be waived as the issue is a matter of public interest — a step allowed under the FOIP Act. Current Supt. Egbert Stang denied the fee waiver on the basis that there was not sufficient evidence this issue is a matter of public interest.

He cited, among other reasons, that the Westlock News was the only one to request such information.

The Westlock News formally requested the Office of the FOIP Commissioner review the fee estimate and the issue of whether the matter is of public interest, and the portfolio officer upheld the division’s position.

The Westlock News will take the next step of writing a letter to the division specifying the reason this issue is a matter of public interest, based on 13 criteria set out in the FOIP Act.

Editor’s note: We do not intend to give up until every option available to us has been exhausted. If we are not successful at getting the fees waived, we will look into options for raising the funds necessary to make this important information public. We will continue to keep our readers informed as we learn more. We invite your feedback on this matter.