FOI group minutes withheld

The Legislative Department of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly has deferred an open records request for the minutes of any Freedom of Information subcommittee meetings until after the committee’s report is presented to the Legislative Assembly.

The records request was filed by the Caymanian Compass seeking copies of ‘all minutes of the meeting[s] of the FOI subcommittee of the house of assembly chaired by the Attorney General Sam Bulgin’. 

The request also sought any reports issued by the subcommittee regarding the FOI Law.

The Compass reported in December that the FOI review would be conducted by the subcommittee privately. Attorney General Bulgin said the six-member committee did plan to make the subcommittee’s minutes and a report on its findings public, but he said he was unaware of any plans to hold the subcommittee meetings in public.

The six-person subcommittee is chaired by Mr. Bulgin and is made up of four elected legislators and Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence. Its work is part of a legally-mandated review of Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law.

Government is required to review the law 18 months after its passage.

Cayman’s FOI Law came into effect on 5 January, 2009.

Section 11(2)(b) of that law allows government to withhold information from release “if the record was prepared for presentation in the Legislative Assembly or for the purpose of being made available to a particular person or body, until the expiration of a reasonable period after its preparation for it to be so presented or made available to that person or body”.

The law also states that, where possible, applicants for information may be told how long the period of the information’s deferral will last. Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Zena Merren-Chin also noted in her response to the request: “Section 73(4) of the Legislative Assembly Standing Orders (2006 Revision) provides that ‘the proceedings of and the evidence taken before any select committee and any documents presented thereto, and decisions of such a committee, shall not be published by any member thereof or by any other person until after the committee has presented its report to the house.’

“In the circumstances, the decision has been taken to defer your request until after the committee’s report has been presented to the house,” she said.

The Compass has 30 days from the date of Tuesday’s decision to ask for an internal review of the Legislative Department’s decision.