Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner’s reported yesterday on illegal destruction of documents by senior Ontario Liberal political staff working on the relocated gas plants once contracted for Oakville and Mississauga. The report details deleted emails, scrubbed hard drives, and policies of conducting meetings without documentation to avoid detection in document searches. The Commissioner focused much of her attention on David Livingston and Craig MacLennan, then chiefs of staff in the Premier’s office and the Energy Minister’s office respectively.
Here are four additional individuals worth investigating — Chris Morley, Jamison Steeve, Sean Mullin, and former Energy Minister Chris Bentley.
Folks following my Gas Buster series may remember a letter from Premier Wynne’s office included in Part 42. The letter was issued in response to an appeal of one of my Freedom of Information requests. In the letter, deleted email accounts were admitted for Premier McGuinty’s former Chief of Staff (who I believe at the time was Chris Morley) and Principal Secretary (Jamison Steeve) as well as McGuinty’s Deputy Director of Policy (Sean Mullin). Mullin’s email is also discussed below.
Both of the following references come from the Justice Policy Committee transcript for April 23, 2013.
The Old Double Blackberry Trick
Mr. Peter Tabuns: You’re aware that your former chief of staff, Craig MacLennan, deleted every email he had?
Mr. Chris Bentley: I’m aware now. I wasn’t managing my staff’s email accounts. That’s not something that I did.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: No, I assume you weren’t.
Mr. Chris Bentley: No, it’s not something that I did.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Was there anyone in your office who was responsible for seeing that your staff operated within the laws of Ontario with regard to records?
Mr. Chris Bentley: I always assumed that we were doing what the practice was, but I was not managing their accounts.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Did you ever get emails from any of them?
Mr. Chris Bentley: Did I get emails from any of them?
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Yes.
Mr. Chris Bentley: Not on my ministry computer, no. I have a BlackBerry from my constituency, and from time to time I got emails there. Most of my work was done by phone, in person or in meetings.
The Old I Don’t Write and the Dog Ate My Email Tricks
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Did you ever produce any hard-copy memoranda on these gas plants?
Mr. Sean Mullin: I never wrote any notes—no memos—as far as I’m aware of. I know I would participate in things like—I believe I edited the questions and answers, for example, that led to the day that the announcement was made; those types of things.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: It’s interesting to us that apparently your emails were kept for a year after you left, and they were deleted shortly after this committee started asking for documents.
Mr. Sean Mullin: I can’t speak to that.
In presenting this research, I in no way intend to diminish the outstanding contribution of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Her report presented yesterday is a remarkable achievement not only for her research, analysis, and interpretation of the significance of the findings but also her timeliness. Her ability to complete her work in just two months makes her work even more praiseworthy.