Elton John World News: Full Disclosure

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Paper Reveals More About Sudbury Ticket Fiasco

Friday 26 June 2009 @ 16:25 - GMT

Nearly 20% of tickets to Elton's now-infamous concert in Sudbury last year were not available for sale to the public.

The information, which the City of Greater Sudbury unsuccessfully tried to suppress, was released Thursday -- more than 15 months after the event was held.

The city spent tens of thousands of dollars in its efforts to withhold the ticket information, which had been requested by the Sudbury Star. After a lengthy process launched by the Star, Ontario's freedom of information commissioner ordered the city to publicly release the information this month.

Despite the ruling that it had wrongly withheld public information -- and the huge expense of taxpayers' money in its failed attempt -- the city issued a news release Thursday claiming to have achieved victory.

According to the law, a municipality has to pass a three-pronged legal test in order to keep such information private. If the municipality does not pass all three parts of the legal test, it must release the information.

In this case, the province's freedom of information commissioner ruled the city's refusal to release the ticket information did not pass the legal test.

The city's position met two of the required criteria, but failed categorically to meet the third condition. As a result, officials were wrong to withhold the information from the public.

The city's version of the ruling comes across differently.

"The city won two of three arguments," the municipality stated in its news release, without specifying it ultimately "lost" the legal test.

The information the city was forced to release shows 1,227 tickets out of a total of 6,386 -- just under 20% -- were withheld from public sale prior to the March 2008 concert.

According to the city's data, 5,241 tickets were sold to the public.

Among the tickets withheld from the public were 120 tickets claimed by city council -- an average of more than nine for each politician.

Council had not publicised the fact it had given itself advance access to the valuable tickets.

However, after the Star broke the story, a massive public backlash prompted the return of 71 of the 120 tickets. Some councillors refused, or could not, return some or all of their tickets.

Other tickets that were not available to the public, according to the city's report, included 268 reserved for Elton; 180 for the concert promoter; 120 for Sudbury Community Arena staff, and eight for local media.

The city spent $37,000 on private legal and public relations services in its efforts to suppress the ticket info and deal with the public outcry.

However, officials also acknowledge the total cost to taxpayers is significantly higher.

During the months-long saga, numerous city employees spent considerable time and resources defending the municipality's position and otherwise reacting to the controversy.

If the cost of that staff time and related resources could be calculated, it would be "significant," acknowledged Doug Nadorozny, the city's chief administrative officer.

Nadorozny said he could not speculate whether those costs would amount to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

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