Email sent to Sutton Guardian Newspaper by LB Sutton

Christopher John made this Freedom of Information request to Sutton Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Christopher John

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please confirm:

1) The existence of an email communication sent to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper week commencing 23-11-2008 concerning details of a confidential staff grievance procedure that took place between a senior member of the management team at Dorchester Primary School and a member of public.

2)Identify the actual member of staff who sent the email to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper and on who's authority they were acting.

3) Identify the actual member of senior management or other such staff member who authorised and sanctioned the composition of the email to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher John

Freedom Of Information, Sutton Borough Council

Dear Mr John

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - INFORMATION REQUEST - REF NO- 1355

I acknowledge your request for information received on 2 February 2009.


Your request is being considered and you will receive the information
requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined
by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, subject to the information not
being exempt or containing a reference to a third party.

If appropriate, the information may be provided in paper copy, normal
font size. If you require alternative formats, e.g. language, audio,
large print, etc. then please let me know.

For your information, the Act defines a number of exemptions which may
prevent release of the information you have requested. There will be an
assessment and if any of the exemption categories apply then the
information will not be released. You will be informed if this is the
case, including your rights of appeal.

If the information you request contains reference to a third party then
they may be consulted prior to a decision being taken on whether or not
to release the information to you. You will be informed if this is the
case.

There may a fee payable for this information. This will be considered
and you will be informed if a fee is payable. In this event the fee must
be paid before the information is processed and released. The 20 working
day time limit for responses is suspended until receipt of the payment.

Yours sincerely

FOI Admin Officer

show quoted sections

Freedom Of Information, Sutton Borough Council

Dear Mr John

Thank you for your enquiry.

Please be advised that in relation to question (1) there was no email
communication with Sutton Guardian concerning a confidential staff
grievance procedure. Therefore we cannot respond to your questions (2)
or (3).

Thank you

show quoted sections

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank your for your response.

I would like to clarify my request given that you claim that an email was not communicated between London Borough of Sutton and the Sutton Guardian Newspaper.

Please now confirm to me:

1) The existence of an ANY communication (fax, letter or hand written note etc) sent to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper week commencing 23-11-2008 concerning details of a confidential staff grievance procedure that took place between a senior member of the management team at Dorchester Primary School and a member of public.

2)Identify the actual member of staff who sent ANY communication (fax ,letter or hand written note etc)to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper and on who's authority they were acting in relation to question 1 above.

3) Identify the actual member of senior management or other such staff member who authorised and sanctioned the composition ANY communication (fax,letter or hand written note etc) to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper in relation to questions 1 and 2 above.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher John

Christopher John left an annotation ()

I am awaiting LB Sutton's response and I am actually in possession of information confirming the existence of an email between them and the Sutton Guardian Newspaper.

I will now wait and see whether they wish to maintain their position of total denial!

Freedom Of Information, Sutton Borough Council

Dear Mr John

I confirm that London Borough of Sutton had no communication (fax, letter,
hand written note or email) with Sutton Guardian in the week commencing 23
November concerning details of a confidential staff grievance. We are
therefore unable to answer your questions 2 and 3.

I trust this concludes the matter.

Sarah Milne

Corporate Customer Care Manager

Chief Executive's Group

London Borough of Sutton

show quoted sections

Dear Mrs Milne,

I'm afraid your email response does not conclude the matter.

I attach below an edited version of an email 'press release' sent by LB Sutton to The Sutton Guardian Newspaper w/c 23-11-08.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------

A panel was convened on 4th November 2008 to consider four separate grievances raised by the xxxxxxxxxx, Mxx xxxxxx xxxxxx, against Mx xxxx.

To ensure complete impartiality, the panel comprised three governors from the London Borough of xxxxxx, from three separate schools, all of whom had no previous knowledge of the case. Mx xxxx was invited to the hearing and advice to the panel was provided by the xxxxxx xx support services to schools. The outcome of the hearing was that the panel unanimously upheld all four grievances raised by Mxx xxxxxx. Mx xxxx is no longer a governor at the school

-------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------

I have removed all references to individuals and locations (and replaced them with x's) to prevent any possible identification of individuals and to maintain confidentiality as far as is reasonably possible. A copy of the original document is in my possession and available on request.

In light of this information please now answer questions 1, 2 and 3 as in my previous emails or alternatively issue me with a Section 17 'refusal notice' as required by the Freedom of Information Act.

I look forward to your reply

Yours sincerely,

Christopher John

Christopher John left an annotation ()

I find it worrying that a Local Authority is in a state of denial over a communication that was sent to a public newspaper and wonder long they can maintain this position given the existence of the email!!

Freedom Of Information, Sutton Borough Council

Dear Mr John

Apologies for not providing you with the information you sought. When
initially dealing with this FOI request our Communications team checked
back in files for a response to an enquiry from the Guardian, and also
press cuttings from the relevant period. Your supplementary email allowed
us to review our files and we therefore confirm the following:

Please confirm:

1) The existence of an email communication sent to the Sutton
Guardian Newspaper week commencing 23-11-2008 concerning details of

a confidential staff grievance procedure that took place between a
senior member of the management team at Dorchester Primary School

and a member of public. An email was sent to the Guardian detailing
the outcome of the staff grievance procedure. The contents were never
published.

2) Identify the actual member of staff who sent the email to the
Sutton Guardian Newspaper and on whose authority they were acting. We are
not obliged to disclose this under Section 40 of the Freedom of
Information Act. I can confirm it was sent by our Communications team on
the authority of the Strategic Director of Children, Young People and
Learning Services.

3) Identify the actual member of senior management or other such
staff member who authorised and sanctioned the composition of the

email to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper. See response to Q2

Sarah Milne

Corporate Customer Care Manager

Chief Executive's Group

London Borough of Sutton

show quoted sections

Dear Mrs Milne,

Thank you for your response confirming existence of the email.

It is disappointing to note the actions of The London Borough of Sutton in this Freedom Of Information request as the authority appears to have acted well below the standards expected of such a Public Authority.

I note your refusal to identify the individual in question 2 and I would now ask you to state:

a)Under which subsection of Section 40 of The Freedom of Information Act do you make the refusal?

And

b) The reasons for that refusal under the subsection of Section 40 identified in question (a) above.

Please bear in mind the guidance given to all Public Authorities by the Information Commissioner's Office in such circumstances.

I have included the Internet link below to assist you;

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...

Please also now confirm to me the date and time the email was sent to the Sutton Guardian Newspaper and provide me with a copy of that email in it's original format.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher John

Christopher John left an annotation ()

The plot thickens :-)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am disappointed that you have not replied to my email dated 18th February 2009.

I would now ask you to pass this email onto the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I wish to request an internal review of London Borough of Sutton's handling of my FOI request 'Email sent to Sutton Guardian Newspaper by LB Sutton'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/em...

In particular please explain;

i) Why the existence of the email was continuously denied by your officers?

and

ii) Identify the failures of internal procedures that led to the 'delay' in locating the email and identify the steps taken and staff communicated with to subsequently locate the 'errant' email?

and

iii) Confirm the relevant subsection of section 40 FOI Act on which you rely to avoid identifying the individual concerned in the production of the email

and

iv) Explain the reasons for relying on the subsection of section 40 FOI Act as requested in question iii above.

v) Provide me with all the information I have requested and been refused by London Borough of Sutton including a copy of the original email.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher John

Freedom Of Information, Sutton Borough Council

Dear Mr John

i) Why the existence of the email was continuously denied by your
officers?

This was an oversight for which we apologise, which arose mainly as a
result of changes of personnel within the communications team. As you
would expect there is a considerable volume of correspondence between a
communications team and the borough's local newspaper, and on the date in
question there was email communication which related to another matter.
It was only after speaking to another officer in the team who recalled
being involved in this particular enquiry that it came to light. There was
no intention to deliberately mislead you.

and

ii) Identify the failures of internal procedures that led to the

'delay' in locating the email and identify the steps taken and

staff communicated with to subsequently locate the 'errant' email?

See response above

and

iii) Confirm the relevant subsection of section 40 FOI Act on which

you rely to avoid identifying the individual concerned in the

production of the email

Your request for the name of the member of staff who sent the email was
refused under sections 40(2) and 40(3)a)i) of the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 because disclosure of this information would contravene the first
data protection principle. Section 40(3)a)i) provides an absolute
exemption which means that there is no test of public interest or
prejudice.

In accordance with guidance issued by the Information Commissioner, we
have concluded that the disclosure of the name of the member of staff who
sent the email would not add any value to the legitimate public interest
relating to the existence of an email communication sent to the Sutton
Guardian Newspaper week commencing 23-11-2008 concerning details of a
confidential staff grievance procedure that took place between a senior
member of the management team at Dorchester Primary School and a member of
public. Further guidance on this point can be found on the Information
Commissioner's website www.ico.gov.uk

and

iv) Explain the reasons for relying on the subsection of section 40

FOI Act as requested in question iii above.

See response above

v) Provide me with all the information I have requested and been

refused by London Borough of Sutton including a copy of the

original email.

The original email no longer exists, for data protection and storage
capacity reasons officers are encouraged to delete emails unless there is
a particular reason to retain them. We do however have a draft of the
proposed text, but cannot confirm this was the version which was sent:

'Following the coverage in the Sutton Guardian over the last few months
concerning Mr. Chris John, former Chair of Governors and former Parent
Governor at Dorchester Primary School, I thought it would be helpful to
provide an update. A panel was convened on 4th November 2008 to consider
four separate grievances raised by the head teacher, Mrs. Louise Austin,
against Mr. John. To ensure complete impartiality, the panel comprised
three governors from the London Borough of Merton, from three separate
schools, all of whom had no previous knowledge of the case. Mr. John was
invited to the hearing and advice to the panel was provided by the Surrey
4S support services to schools. The outcome of the hearing was that the
panel unanimously upheld all four grievances raised by Mrs. Austin. Mr.
John is no longer a governor at the school."

Sarah Milne

Corporate Customer Care Manager

Chief Executive's Group

London Borough of Sutton

show quoted sections

Christopher John left an annotation ()

LB Sutton have admitted to me that they have breached the Data Protection Act in identifying individuals without their permission and for revealing confidential information that should not be in the Public Domain.

For purposes of Public record I reproduce an edited version of an email sent by LB Sutton to the whatdotheyknow team below:

Sent: 05 March 2009 14:53
To: 'xxxx.xxxxxx@gmail.com'
Subject: DATA SECURITY BREACH
Importance: High

Dear Sirs

In accordance with guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office please take this email as a formal notice of a data security breach.

We understand that our client department replied to an FOI request on 4 March 2009 from Mr Christopher John and that the email has now been published on your website ([email address removed]).

The email refers to x xxxx xxxxxx who has not provided xxx consent for xxxx identity to be disclosed which clearly constitutes a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. We understand that although the disclosure of the identity of this individual arose through human error there still remains a data security breach.

The original press release was not printed, which therefore means that the confidential details of the grievance are not in the public domain.

We therefore request that you remove the email or remove the identity of xxx xxxx xxxxxx in order to contain and limit the damage the breach has the potential to cause.

As our client has previously advised you, we appreciate the fact that the name of xxxxxx is already in the public domain, however we wish to keep the grievance process confidential because this is not public information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Legal Services

London Borough of Sutton

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

We've asked London Borough of Sutton for clarification about this, but have not received a reply.

Christopher John left an annotation ()

I'm afraid they probably wont reply given the fact that they have actually achieved releasing the information into the public domain as they always intended but initially denied!

Eric Blair left an annotation ()

With regards Sutton Council's statement:

"The original email no longer exists, for data protection and storage
capacity reasons officers are encouraged to delete emails unless there
is a particular reason to retain them."

It is my understanding that individual officer's can 'delete' emails from there own email account. However, Public Authorities still have the capacity to restore any deleted email using it's remote admin facilities. Some Public Authorities retain 'deleted' emails for upto 10 years, before securely erasing them.

Some related information:

"There was a question about deleted emails and whether such items were in fact deleted or stored/archived as part of the Council’s information retention procedures. It was confirmed that deleted emails were archived, this was to allow for their retrieval should information be required at a future time. Most Members of the Sub-Committee indicated they were not aware that this was the case and one Member who had been involved in a Freedom of Information request revealed the various difficulties that this had caused."
http://www.somerset.gov.uk/council/board...

" The reason for the monitoring, intercepting and recording in 11.1 above is to
check whether your use of loaned ICT equipment and software is legitimate,
and that it complies with these guidelines, to find messages that may be lost
due to computer failure or malfunction, to investigate allegations of
misconduct, for example audit or relevant external bodies investigations, and
to comply with any of the council's legal obligations such as the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Telecommunications (Lawful Business
Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000, the Data
Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Human Rights
Act 1998. Even deleted emails may be retrieved for these purposes.
Councillors should therefore avoid using council email facilities to
communicate any sensitive personal information."
http://documents.salisbury.gov.uk/counci...

Eric Blair left an annotation ()

Deleted....... emails and an ICO decision:

"The public authority advised that the government made a substantial amount of
information available to the Hutton Inquiry. As part of this exercise a search was
made of all electronic records including deleted emails in order to identify all
potentially relevant material."
http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/d...