FOI court challenge evaporates

In an unexpected reversal last week, the Cayman Islands government decided to drop a court challenge to an open records request that sought the specific salaries of Government Information Services employees.

GIS officials told the Caymanian Compass earlier in the week that Acting Chief Information Officer Angela Piercy intended to pursue a judicial review action in the Grand Court regarding the release of her salary, which was ordered by Cayman Islands Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert in July.

However, the next day, following the publication of an article about the pending challenge, the newspaper was told that Mrs. Piercy would not be pursuing the judicial review any further.

In her July decision, Mrs. Dilbert said other GIS employees’ salaries could remain secret, but said that salary ranges initially provided to the Compass would have to be significantly narrowed to within CI $10,000 between the top and bottom of the pay scales.

Most GIS staff members did oppose the initial request that their exact salaries should be released.

The ruling has decided a key issue as to what salary records can be released publicly under the Freedom of Information Law.

Commissioner Dilbert gave reasons for requiring higher-ranking government employees to disclose their exact salaries in her 30 July ruling on the case.

‘Common sense and the FOI Law strongly suggest that the higher and more influential the post, the greater the need for transparency, and this includes more disclosure of personal information,’ she said.

Mrs. Dilbert also noted that, in the way civil servant salary scales were structured, the salaries for those holding higher-ranking posts were actually less clear.

‘Most troubling is the fact that the more senior the public servant, the wider the salary band and therefore the less clear the accountability,’ she said.

The commissioner did agree that civil servant salaries were personal information, but stated the public interest outweighed protections of that information the higher up the civil service management structure one went.