ALBERTA

Crown Prosecutors Sunshine List: Legal Battle Looms Over Release Of Province's Salary List

01/30/2014 12:37 EST | Updated 04/01/2014 05:59 EDT
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EDMONTON - The Alberta government has been ordered by a judge to not release the names and salaries of its Crown prosecutors pending a full hearing into the matter.

Justice Doreen Sulyma of Court of Queen's Bench agreed Thursday with an injunction application that said releasing that kind of information to the public could put prosecutors at further risk of violence or identity theft.

"I do see a difference between (the release of) generic information versus the very personal information that is set to be published (by the province)," Sulyma told the lawyers at the injunction hearing.

"The plaintiff has identified people who might do her harm and has in doing so identified a risk should this publication occur."

No date has been set to hear the merits of the case.

The injunction was brought forward by a Crown prosecutor, whose name is currently under a publication ban, one day before Premier Alison Redford's government was to place online the names and salary details of every government employee who makes $100,000 a year or more.

The salary details follow up on a promise made last month by Redford after her office was harshly criticized for refusing an order from the privacy commissioner to disclose the severance paid to Redford's former chief of staff, Stephen Carter.

Carter later announced on Twitter he received $130,000 severance after being on the job for six months, ending in 2012.

The government was to post 3,400 salaries from 2012 and 2013 on Friday and update them twice yearly after that.

There are 27,000 staffers on the government payroll.

Redford has said the list was a commitment to openness and accountability.

But Paul Moreau, the lawyer for the prosecutor, told Sulyma that Redford had gone too far in making the salary disclosure changes to privacy rules, going beyond the intent and spirit of the legislation.

"This (change) is not the will of the legislature. This is the will of the premier," Moreau told court.

Moreau argued that prosecutors by the nature of their jobs are at risk from retribution and that publishing specific salary figures may give wrongdoers one more reason to target prosecutors or steal their identities.

"Every bit of information is another toehold for people with mischief on their minds," Moreau told Sulyma.

Government lawyer Greg Harding, however, argued that Moreau was suggesting increased danger that didn't exist.

Harding noted that prosecutors' names and salary ranges are already freely available on the Internet.

"What's the difference between having your actual salary disclosed and your salary range disclosed?" Harding said to Sulyma.

"Where is the additional harm?

"Does that call for interfering with the legislature?"

Harding also noted that provinces like British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, already have similar rules in place that include the salaries of prosecutors.

Moreau argued the reported salary range can be as wide as between $40,000 and $200,000 a year.

The government has said if the injunction is granted it would still proceed Friday with the portion of the salary disclosure rollout not under court order.

Outside court, Moreau said the injunction ruling should give the government pause to consider the effects of the salary disclosure on others in high-risk occupations, such as jail guards.

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