Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Confidentiality Laws Ignored under Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty

It was a test. When a barring at Carnegie occurred in April 2010, a decision was made by the victim not to tell anybody. The goal was to expose the level of disregard for privacy law under Ethel Whitty.

Word spread fast. Within days, all staff in the cafeteria knew and soon the customer base got wind of it.

Five months have gone by. This weekend, the victim of the barring reportedly heard residents of her apartment building, one of whom works at Carnegie, talking about it.

An estimated 200 Carnegie members a year are victims of this reckless disregard for British Columbia's tough privacy laws.

Carnegie staff even attempted to get the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog to print material about female Carnegie members. They wanted women who had been barred or spoken up about undemocratic practices inside Carnegie to be identified -- they sent the DTES Enquirer the names of these women -- and they wanted them publicly labelled "barnyard animals" and "nudie lesbians". City Manager Penny Ballem was aware that this was occuring. So was Councilor Raymond Louie.

Whitty vigorously enforces privacy laws when it comes to staff at Carnegie, but not the clientele. At one point Whitty attempted to pass a motion at a Board meeting to prevent the names of staff from being mentioned at committee meetings where a complaint lodged against them was being discussed. When then Board member Rachel Davis objected, Whitty asked her why staff where "fair game", to which Davis responded that she resented the implication that she was viewing staff as prey to be hunted.

Contrast Whitty's protectiveness of staff with her attitude that a Carnegie member can be told that they are barred by a dumpster diver or some other person on the street who was told by Carnegie staff or who overheard Carnegie staff talking about it. One guy learned while eating dinner at the Evelyn Saller Centre that he was barred from Carnegie. Another guy dropped in to Carnegie to buy a tea and heard Security boss Skip Everall openly conspiring with a coffee shop volunteer to bar a member. "You're barred,", the tea buyer told the member on a Saturday night outside Carnegie. A meeting was held with Whitty about that breach of confidentiality; two years have passed and Everall has not been held accountable and Whitty has yet to even respond to the complaint.

The privacy of Carnegie staff is so fiercely protected that if a member lays a complaint with a security guard about physical aggression by a staff person -- there is plenty of staff aggression; ask the skateboarder who got thrown onto the marble floor by 3 security guards for bending the rules by using a pull-cart to return his library books -- they will be scolded by Security boss Skip Everall for doing so. Everall considers reporting staff to a security guard to be a breach of staff privacy. Complaints about staff must must be directed to Assistant Manager Dan Tetrault, Everall has asserted, and if a member feels at physical risk by a staff person, they are expected to wait until Tetrault docks his yacht and returns to work on his next scheduled shift. Security guards at Carnegie offer class-selective security, just as privacy laws are applied in a class-selective manner at Carnegie.

Whitty can't have it both ways. Carnegie is classified as a social service provider rather than a community centre, possibly as a means of maximizing funding, getting grants, etc. But most people use Carnegie as a community centre, dropping in to get a bite to eat in the cafeteria, use the Music program, check out books or use computers in the library. There are no social services being provided. But there is a social service mentality encouraged by Whitty and the staff; Whitty pushed to hire a security boss from a mental hospital, which revealed how she wanted people treated. The social service agency classification though would require that Whitty and her staff be particularly vigilant in ensuring that personal information about members is handled in a manner consistent with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. She ignores the Act.

Whitty has a license to practice as a social worker. Time it was revoked.

1 comment:

Rachel Davis said...

You make a very interesting point in that last paragraph!