Council forced to hand over emails and letters
CITY council officers have fought for years to keep secret the email exchanges between senior directors and WaterWorld owner Mo Chaudry.
The authority refused a number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests triggered by its £21,850 payoff to Mr Chaudry in September 2011.
Requests under FOI, which legally obliges public bodies to release certain information, sought full disclosure of the paper trail linking Mr Chaudry with senior officers and the elected mayor.
The authority refused on the grounds that its payoff to Mr Chaudry included a legally-binding confidentiality agreement between both parties.
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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which oversees legal obligations under FOI, sided with the council.
But the case raised concerns about a precedent for public information being concealed by civil proceedings.
An information rights tribunal at the ICO overturned the original refusal, prompting the council to release a dossier of relevant communications yesterday.
Paul Hackney, the council's head of legal services, said: "The council considered it inappropriate to release certain information under several Freedom of Information requests.
"This was because the information was considered relevant to a settlement agreement reached between the council and WaterWorld Holdings following a confidential mediation agreement over a legal dispute between the two organisations in 2011.
"The Information Commissioner fully agreed with the council's approach. However, the situation has been clarified by the tribunal and a number of email communications and letters are now able to be released.
"The council is complying with the order. It is not appealing against the tribunal's decision."