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Employee lied about deleted Ministry of Transportation emails: Privacy commissioner

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October 22, 2015 - 1:00 PM

VICTORIA - B.C.'s privacy commissioner has alerted RCMP after releasing a scathing report identifying major failures in the access to information practices of Premier Christy Clark's office and two ministries.

Elizabeth Denham found it's likely that Transport Ministry assistant George Gretes deleted emails, didn't completely respond to freedom of information requests and then lied about it under oath.

Denham said she has referred the matter to Mounties for investigation.

"I cannot overstate the gravity with which I view the false testimony given during this investigation by George Gretes," she wrote. "I am deeply saddened that the evidence in this case has required me to take this course of action."

The commissioner said her investigation uncovered negligent searches for records, failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches and the wilful destruction of records in response to FOI requests.

"Taken together, these practices threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia," she said in a statement.

The issue came to light when Tim Duncan, a former executive assistant in the Transport Minister's office, submitted a complaint alleging Gretes "triple deleted" computer records that would have been needed for an FOI request.

Government emails need to be deleted three times before they are completely expunged from an account.

Denham found Duncan to be a credible witness and that his account of events was truthful. In contrast, she said Gretes was not reliable and admitted to giving false testimony under oath.

The commissioner also examined additional access requests directed at the Ministry of Advanced Education and the Premier's office which were brought forward after the initial complaint.

Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services Minister Amrik Virk responded in a statement thanking Denham for her report.

"All government employees have a responsibility to ensure they are properly responding to freedom of information requests. The commissioner has made a number of important findings that we take seriously and government is committed to acting on her recommendations," he said.

The minister said Gretes has tendered his resignation and that has been accepted by government.

Virk said he has asked former B.C. information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis to advise government on how to address the recommendations.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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