McMaster goes to court to block release of president’s pay package

University appeals Ontario Information and Privacy Commission ruling, refuses to reveal employment contract of president

McMaster University is asking for a judicial review of a ruling by Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner instructing the university to fully disclose university president Peter George’s current contract.

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In August 2006, The Hamilton Spectator made a request for “access to the current contract and terms of employment for [a named individual] as President of McMaster, including salary, benefits, pension and a list of all other entitlements (for example a list of allowable expenses such as housing, terms of travel whether first class, business class, memberships in clubs and associations and other perquisites and benefits).”

The university annually makes public the president’s basic pay and taxable benefits, as do all Ontario public bodies. Peter George received over $500,000 in salary and taxable benefits in 2007.

However, the university denied the request The Spectator’s request for additional details of the president’s compensation, citing exceptions under Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. By revealing the contract, George’s privacy would be violated, argued the university.

The Spectator appealed the university’s decision with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

At the end of January, seventeen months after the original request was filed, the IPC ordered McMaster to disclose the president’s employment agreement. The university has appealed this ruling with the courts.

Ontario’s universities were previously exempt from freedom of information laws. This changed June 10, 2006. Universities now fall under the freedom of information act.

No court date has been set.