Key accountability mechanism continues to fail Brampton residents since Patrick Brown’s arrival
Feature image from Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer files

Key accountability mechanism continues to fail Brampton residents since Patrick Brown’s arrival

The freedom of information system in Brampton continues to fall well short of legislated targets put in place to ensure residents have timely access to information about the inner workings of City Hall. This basic right provides access to facts and data that allow residents to hold elected officials accountable for the decisions they make and gain insight into the use of their tax dollars. 

The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA)—a piece of legislation with the goal of providing “a right of access to information under the control of institutions” and designed to “protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by institutions and to provide individuals with a right of access to that information”—mandates that cities and other public institutions must respond to requests for information within 30 days. In the City of Brampton, this target is only being met 64 percent of the time. Even when the municipality uses extended timelines under the Act, compliance is still only met 78.8 percent of the time. 

The response rate is a significant drop from just five years ago when the City was responding to 90 percent of requests within 30 days, and an even further drop from 2018 when 98 percent of requests were responded to within that time frame. However, after Patrick Brown was elected mayor in October 2018, things slowly started to degrade. Compliance rates declined to 81 percent in 2019 and 60.9 percent in 2020 (timelines were extended to 45 days during COVID) before rebounding after the pandemic to 74 percent in 2021. The drop in 2022 occurred despite the City receiving fewer requests than the year before, dropping from 182 to 168. 


(City of Brampton) 


In a report sent to city council last week, head of Brampton’s Freedom of Information (FOI) system, city clerk Peter Fey, stated that processing delays due to requests being received late in the calendar year and “staff changes” contributed to the low compliance rate. 

The FOI function is not the only accountability mechanism falling short in the City of Brampton. A report sent to council in February revealed Internal Audit—a department which ensures the municipality is running efficiently and using tax dollars effectively—is understaffed, and unable to perform its target number of audits or adequately manage the City’s Fraud Hotline for staff to report alleged wrongdoing. According to the staff report, the Internal Audit department has not been adequately resourced to handle the fraud hotline and City Hall has not conducted any awareness campaigns among staff to inform them of the methods for reporting suspected issues. The department has requested two additional staff members to manage the hotline for 2023.

The failure of these critical accountability functions comes at a time when the City of Brampton is plagued with scandal under the tenure of Brown. 

The Pointer has relied on the FOI system to answer critical questions about taxpayer spending, and expose wrongdoing by Brown and staff he has appointed to senior positions within the bureaucracy. 


Since the election of Mayor Patrick Brown in 2018, the freedom of information function at the City of Brampton has consistently declined in ability to meet legislated targets for access.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer) 


Requests filed by The Pointer in November 2020 revealed the City of Brampton spent $70,000 to hire two disgraced former Niagara employees. A total of $30,042.03 was spent to hire David Barrick as the chief administrative officer in October 2019—Barrick was fired last year. Jason Tamming was hired as the director of strategic communications in May 2019 at a cost of $39,840.61 to Brampton taxpayers. Tamming was also let go in 2022 when a contingent of councillors, pushing back against what they labelled as “democracy under siege” by Brown, attempted to clean up City Hall. He was rehired following Brown’s reelection in October.  

The executive search firm Feldman Daxon Partners Inc. was used for the recruitment of both employees, selected by the company despite years of media reports that detailed their disturbing behaviour in a hiring scheme the Ontario Ombudsman labeled an “inside job” before they were both fired from their previous public sector roles in Niagara Region. Tamming, in his first stint at Brampton City Hall, attempted to use staff and his role as head of communications to mislead the public about his corrupt behaviour in the Niagara “Inside Job” CAO hiring scandal

The Pointer was also able to expose over $600,000 in contracts handed to an associate of Councillor Rowena Santos in connection to the failed Brampton University scheme.

A summary of election sign violations obtained through FOI by The Pointer revealed the same Brampton Council members who passed a motion that bans outdoor election signs were responsible for 1,083 election sign violations during the recent municipal campaign – about a third had Patrick Brown’s name on them.

The Pointer was able to show how Brown, while running for the Conservative Party of Canada leadership, charged Brampton taxpayers through his mayor’s expense budget for social media posts used in his federal campaign.

Along with key pieces of accountability reporting, the FOI system is also used to expose key issues related to public safety. In Mississauga, an internal audit of 14 fire stations was completed in 2019. When staff would not release it publicly, The Pointer filed an FOI to obtain the document. 

It revealed a near-universal state of disrepair and high costs needed to get critical buildings to meet even the basic standards for safety, after decades of financial neglect by City officials and its elected council members. 

A trio of stations are in such a bad state, the audit doesn’t even recommend repairs, saying they simply can’t be brought up to standard.

The system has allowed for key pieces of information to be shared with the public. However, the City of Brampton has routinely challenged these requests; and repeatedly violated FOI law by either removing the FOI function’s objectivity by placing it under the purview of the CAO, or flat-out refusing to provide information. 

Brown and Santos violated Ontario’s freedom of information laws by failing to hand over documents involving communications with Rob Godfrey and David Wheeler, the two main consultants, who received $629,000 for the controversial Brampton University project.

Godfrey is a close friend of Brown, Wheeler is a close friend of Santos, relationships that were not disclosed to council while Santos worked behind the scenes to help Wheeler gain influence with staff in what was supposed to be a fair and transparent open bidding process. 

Both of the council members took votes at the end of August to cancel ongoing forensic investigations into the contracts the two men received, after the relationships were revealed and after a staff report in May showed much of the work was never done, while Godfrey’s firm was handed three times more money than what council approved for his contract in 2019.

On August 5, The Pointer submitted 12 FOI requests to the City’s Access and Privacy Office. Expenses, communications regarding friends and associates of Brown who received lucrative City contracts and similar documents involving Santos were requested. Most have yet to be received. Even with accepted extensions, deadlines were still ignored. One request yielded a late document delivery, but it failed to meet FOI standards that require municipalities to turn over what was requested. 

Four of the FOI requests, seeking communications regarding friends and associates of Brown and Santos who received large City contracts, have been abandoned by the City after Brown and Santos ignored provincial laws that govern the public’s right to have access to information, refusing to cooperate with City staff who attempted to obtain the documents from them.

The City was unable to obtain these documents from the “respective department(s) and/or individuals within the institution” despite “considerable efforts.”

Brown and Santos would not hand them over ahead of the October 24 election, despite being given more than ten weeks from when the FOI requests were filed on August 5.

“The Access and Privacy Office understands that these timelines are set by MFIPPA to provide members of the public with a right of access to records in a reasonable time. Our Office has made considerable efforts to obtain the potentially responsive records from the respective department(s) and/or individuals within the institution. Unfortunately, our Office has not received, at this time, potentially responsive records to your request. As such, we are unable to provide a decision to your access request in a reasonable time, and this matter can be considered a deemed refusal in accordance with Section 22 (4) of the Act,” Brampton’s Access and Privacy Team wrote in a response letter to The Pointer September 23.

Section 22 (4) of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) states: “A head (of a public institution’s FOI process) who fails to give the notice required under section 19 or subsection 21 (7) concerning a record shall be deemed to have given notice of refusal to give access to the record on the last day of the period during which notice should have been given.”

The Pointer asked the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, which governs access to information laws, what the public and the media can do when an elected official fails to hand over documents under the province’s freedom of information laws.  

“Under Ontario’s access laws, institutions are required to respond to a freedom of information request within 30 days. If that is not possible, they must respond (within 30 days) indicating they need a time extension and provide a reason for the time extension. If an institution fails to issue a written decision to a requester within the applicable time limit or extension, it is considered a “deemed refusal” under s.22(4) of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, (MFIPPA).”

“Our staff will attempt to work with the parties to reach a mutually beneficial solution. If a solution is not reached, the matter may proceed to a formal inquiry and an order requiring the institution to respond by a certain date may be issued.”


Patrick Brown and Rowena Santos violate FOI laws; documents related to recent investigations withheld

Mayor Patrick Brown and Councillor Rowena Santos violated freedom of information law by refusing to provide documents request in connection to consultants for the failed Brampton University project.

(The Pointer files)


Prior to Brown and Santos violating provincial law, former CAO Barrick also illegally violated the MFIPPA when he hired and tried to designate a staffer to oversee FOI requests, directly under his authority while reporting to him, without getting approval from Council. 

The role is supposed to report directly to Council not the CAO, who the function is supposed to hold accountable.

The Act states only Council can designate the head, who oversees the FOI process. Angry councillors passed a motion restoring the City Clerk as the Council-designated head of the FOI function, under the rules of the provincial legislation, after they learned what Barrick had illegally done without their knowledge. 



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoeljWittnebel

COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you

Submit a correction about this story