Statements made Tuesday by Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert raised an interesting question about Cayman’s open records process.
Mrs. Dilbert said an applicant who had filed 46 open records requests comprising 78 questions – all to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service – over a 10 month period had “abused” the Freedom of Information system and that the requests were considered “vexatious” under the FOI Law.
In its essence, the question here boils down to: How much is too much?
It is clear to us that, in the view of some civil service departments, the FOI process is quite tedious and, frankly, unnecessary. It is quite clear to us that the current police commissioner holds this view.
We do not agree and would remind these civil servants that the reason FOI was brought into being in the first place was to ensure that openness and transparency continued in local government, no matter who was in charge.
However, Commissioner Dilbert reminds us that there is also a duty of care any applicant for open records must attend to.
The FOI Law is, by all accounts, a great step forward in Cayman’s progression as a democracy. It has time and time again in the past two years proven itself, as records heretofore unavailable to the public have come to light, sometimes to the embarrassment of public officials.
We don’t know what this one allegedly abusive applicant was asking for, but if Mrs. Dilbert’s assessment of the situation is correct and someone was using the FOI Law to bog down the police service in paperwork, the matter should be addressed.
With freedom comes responsibility; the old saying is true when it comes to FOI, and not only for the press.
We would sincerely hope that no one is out there dreaming up ways to confound public authorities with open records requests and, in so doing, defeating the purpose of the FOI Law in the first place.