Chambers and Department of Families, Youth and Community Care; Gribaudo (Third Party)
(1996 S0160, 7 April 1999)
The applicant was a managerial level officer in a public sector agency, against whom a grievance had been lodged about the way certain complaints by an employee were handled. The applicant sought access to a record of interview between the grievance investigators and a union officer, which referred to the approach the applicant had taken to the grievances of the complainant. The grievance investigators had given an assurance of confidentiality to the union officer.
The Information Commissioner discussed the effect of s.99 of the Public Service Management and Employment Regulation 1988 Qld (which was in force at the time the record of interview was created), which required that certain documents concerning the performance of an officer be shown to the officer before being placed on any official file or record relating to the officer. In the circumstances of the case, the Information Commissioner concluded that any understanding of confidentiality between the grievance investigators and the union officer must be subject to an exception which would allow the Department to comply with that provision. The Information Commissioner also noted a number of written procedures of the Department which suggested that any understanding of confidentiality would be subject to an exception to accord procedural fairness to a person who was the subject of adverse comment in the course of the grievance process. The Information Commissioner found that the record of interview with the union officer was not exempt from disclosure to the applicant under s.46(1) of the FOI Act.
In rejecting a claim that the record of interview was exempt under s.40(c), the Information Commissioner noted the concern of the Department regarding the potential for prejudice to the future supply of information from staff members, particularly junior staff. However, in this case, the information in issue was provided by a union officer, not a staff member, and the Information Commissioner did not consider that the nature of the information was such that a significant number of union officers could reasonably be expected to refrain in future from openly representing staff concerns, due to disclosure of the document in issue. The Information Commissioner also found that none of the matter in issue concerned the personal affairs of the complainant, or any other person, so that a case for exemption under s.44(1) could not be established.