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How can we protect our Clerk from an ex Councillor sending in Fors that are vexatious aimed at the clerk

0 votes
Ex Councillor NOW CONSTANTLY PUT IN Freedom of information requests about past decisions he was involved in, asking about the Clerks leave, sick.salary and costs to overtime for the past year and they are vexatious, He refuses to acknowledge the chair who is also a female.

How can we stop this silly little man? before we lose an amazing Clerk? we are told due to being in public office we have to take it on the chin, well 2 years of this is enough
asked by (120 points)

3 Answers

+1 vote

Sadly this sort of thing does happen regularly. Some suggestions:

  • You can refuse vexatious requests, but generally this is best avoided as it only raises the temperature and can lead to formal complaints. But it is an option.
  • Requests don't have to be answered immediately. There are time limits, but it can make life easier if responses are delayed for as long as possible.
  • There are exclusions for confidential matters, and they should certainly be used.
  • Not all details of financial matters have to be provided to non-councillors - it may be worth sorting out which requests are actually valid
  • Assuming requests are coming by email, an option is to redirect email from the miscreant to volunteer councillors for vetting before passing them to the clerk, as a means of lowering the stress level.
Other answers with any further suggestions welcome!
answered by (28.4k points)
+1 vote
As Counterpoint has mentioned, there are exemptions and you should apply these wherever possible. The legislation is difficult to read, but the Information Commissioner's Office might be able to provide specific advice. If your Clerk's salary is included as an individual item in your published accounts, you do not need to respond to an FOI request, as the data is already in the public domain. Similarly past decisions are recorded in the minutes. The Clerk's sickness record should be covered by the Clerk's right to privacy, as should many other aspects of her employment. Check GDPR for her right to object to the disclosure of this information.

It is interesting to note that the ICO defines a senior post as somebody who is making high-level decisions and spending large sums of public money, neither of which applies to a Clerk, so the enhanced disclosure rules for senior employees should not apply.

If you provide the ICO with a list of all requests received from this individual and the timescale, they should also be able to advise on whether they constitute vexatious communication.
answered by (18.5k points)
0 votes
Your Parish Council could adopt a Vexatious Requests Policy which takes account of section 14 of the FOI Act.  However, from previous experience of such a policy, it can be abused to the detriment of the requester.
answered by (2.3k points)

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