I got this today from Owen Amos, a reporter on the Echo's Darlington newsdesk.
Someone has just forwarded me a link to your blog, drawing my attention to this... I wrote both stories you referred to. The Mayor's car figures were provided by the communications unit. There was no mention of FoI in the story. The car park fine figures were released under FoI. However, after they were obtained, I was told the communications unit could have provided them. Therefore, FoI deliberately wasn't mentioned (I can forward you a copy of the story if you don't believe me!). As you say, mentioning "FoI" implies to some people the council has something to hide. I just thought I'd clear that up. Hope all is well.
I did get rather hot under the collar about some recent reporting, and got the impression that an FoI was used on the Mayoral car story when the headline used the word "revealed" (all too often touchy politicians get cross at reporters when actually a sub-editor has dashed off a headline). I'm delighted to set the record straight by posting Owen's comments to me in full. Normal service is resumed.