“There has to be a record that people can go back to, and I might say future historians can go back to…..This is something that we take to heart, recognizing the importance of it, and will indeed be implementing.” – Wade MacLauchlan
[CBC article “E-gaming emails deleted, text messages not provided to AG” October 5, 2016]
As Capital Market’s Technologies (CMT’s) $50 million lawsuit against the PEI Government moves forward, additional documents are being filed with the PEI Supreme Court. Yesterday (Friday, January 4, 2019) CMT filed 125 new exhibits, copies of which I obtained. One of those records (embedded below) reveals that a little more than three weeks after Wade MacLauchlan was elected Premier it appears that- he either directly ordered – or at least approved – a decision to instruct ITSS to delete all of Robert Ghiz’s network files, electronic documents and emails.
Let’s examine this matter very carefully before jumping to any conclusions, so we know precisely what happened when, as well as what questions reporters need to ask Wade MacLauchlan about the destruction of Ghiz’s government documents.
A Chronology of events leading up to the destruction of Ghiz’s Records
October 19, 2011 – Robert Ghiz orders the destruction of his Chief of Staff’s (Chris LeClair’s) electronic documents, emails and files on his Desktop computer.
October 24, 2014 – Former RCMP officer and Private Investigator, Bruce MacDonald, contracted by Capital Markets Technologies (CMT ) to undertake an investigation into the securities investigation initiated against CMT, sends a letter to Wes Sheridan, then Minister of Finance under Robert Ghiz, along with an executive summary of his completed Investigative Report (over 2,000 pages with attachments) which revealed that Minister Sheridan “…was in possession of sufficient knowledge to inform either Mr. Hasmi, Mr. Curran or Mr. Dowling of the legitimate business dealings of CMT and their representatives. Such information could and should have prevented the needless investigation by the PEI Securities Commission.”
November 13 2014 –– Robert Ghiz abruptly announces his resignation as Premier of PEI;
November 14, 2014 – Bruce MacDonald releases his Investigate Report to the media and general public exonerating CMT;
February 21, 2015 – Wade MacLauchlan is appointed Leader of the Liberal Party and Premier of Prince Edward Island. Robert Ghiz resigns;
February 21 – March 3, 2015 – Within 10 days of becoming Premier, Wade MacLauchlan “… had a meeting with the public archivist, Jill MacMicken-Wilson…and was given a complete briefing on the regime and the protocols regarding official records.”
February 24, 2015 – Wade MacLauchlan removes Wes Sheridan as Cabinet Minister and Sheridan abruptly resigns as an MLA the same day;
February 27, 2015 – The Globe and Mail publishes the results of its extensive investigation into the e-gaming scandal in PEI: “Small island, big bet: How PEI lost its online gambling gamble.”
March 4, 2015 – Premier Maclauchlan sends the controversial e-gaming file to the Auditor General for review;
Early March, 2015 – PC Leader Rob Lantz sends a letter to Premier MacLauchlan demanding he release all “e-gaming records,” but receives no response;
April 6, 2015 – Premier MacLauchlan launches an election campaign. The e-gaming scandal; concerns about government corruption; and a lack of openness, transparency, and accountability are key issues in the election campaign;
April 9, 2015 – CMT files a $25-Million lawsuit against government officials, including Chris LeClair, Robert Ghiz’s Chief of Staff. Jonathan Coady, legal counsel for the PEI government, files the government’s “Statement of Defence” just hours later, denying virtually all allegations[This was later amended and increased to become a $50 million lawsuit];
April 13, 2015 – PC Leader Rob Lantz goes public about the letter he sent to Premier Wade MacLauchlan more than a month earlier demanding that he now release all “e-gaming records,” including thousands of e-gaming documents that had been “sealed” by the PEI Securities Commission;
May 24, 2015 – Wade MacLauchlan appoints Brian Douglas (Deputy Minister of Agriculture at the time) as Clerk of Executive Council;
May 29, 2015 – Brian Douglas signs the Employee Removal Form instructing ITSS to delete all Robert Ghiz’s files in his Network Drives and emails in his GroupWise email account.
Important Considerations Regarding the Deletion of Ghiz’s Government Records
Normally, an “Employee Removal Form” is completed immediately after individuals cease to be employees of the PEI government. This is because it is necessary to ensure that they no longer have access to network drives and email accounts. However, record management laws and policies strictly forbid the “deletion” of these files and government records until such time as they are copied and/or otherwise “protected”.
As noted above, Premier MacLauchlan had been thoroughly briefed on this matter. He informed the Legislative Assembly (November 30, 2016, p. 1933) that he was made fully aware of the laws and procedures governing record management and retention by the Provincial Archivist, Jill MacMicken-Wilson:
The normal “procedure” that is followed when ITSS is initially contacted and asked to ensure that employees who have left their jobs can no longer access their accounts is for them to simply “disable” the accounts, leaving the files of those employees (especially more senior-level bureaucrats and elected officials ) fully intact. In this way, new employees filling those positions can be given “proxy” access to those accounts so they can then access all the files and emails they’ll need to carry on with projects, discover what has already been done on files, etc.
This normal process was explained to members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts by Scott Cudmore, head of Information Technology Shared Services (ITSS) on February 15, 2017 as follows:
Scott Cudmore: “When we disable an account, what that means technically, is that no one in the email system will have access to that account except for a system administrator of GroupWise themselves, or we have another special type of access called a proxy. All a proxy is, is it allows somebody else other than the previous owner or the owner of the account to gain access to that account. When the account is disabled, you can no longer send email, you can no longer – sorry, you can only read the email. One of the reasons why a department would want to have that proxy access is in a transition of responsibilities, for example, where emails were used to conduct business. If somebody leaves, somebody else comes along and takes their place, replaces them, it’s often necessary for that individual who’s replacing the person to have that access to those emails. When an email account is disabled, it can always be re-enabled and restored. In other words, disabling the account does not remove any email.”
The files and emails in Network or email accounts which are only “disabled” remain fully intact FOREVER, and are not automatically “deleted” after one year, as both the former Minister responsible for the Public Archives and Records Office (PARO), Doug Currie, indicated when he misled members of the Legislative Assembly in response to a question concerning normal record management procedures (see: Hansard Transcript, December 1, 2016, p. 1629]; just as Premier MacLauchlan several weeks later also falsely claimed when he misled all Islanders in his 2016 year-end interviews with both the Guardian and CBC (see for example: “From Donald Trump to the Hells Angels: Wade MacLauchlan on 2016,” CBC, December 29, 2016).
Scott Cudmore further clarified these matters for members of the Public Account Committee on February 1, 2017 by explaining that: “Currently, we have about 10,000 active users in our email system and we have about 4,000 disabled accounts” [Transcript; p. 99] and later during the same meeting, reiterated that same claim, and clarifying that the emails in those 4,000 disabled accounts were still intact and accessible: “I’d mentioned there were 4,000 disabled accounts so that their emails are still available” [Transcript; p.103].
How is it that a person with a background in environmental technology and agriculture gets appointed to be the Clerk of Executive Council on a Sunday, then signs a form instructing ITSS to delete all of Robert Ghiz’s electronic network files, documents and emails just five (5) days later? Given the sheer gravity of that decision, it is not reasonable to assume that he made that decision without direction and/or authorization from Premier MacLauchlan.
Given the obvious importance of so many of the issues, documents and files that former Premier Robert Ghiz would have been involved with up to the time Wade MacLauchlan became Premier – not least of which was the “e-gaming” file which was a matter before the courts and a major public issue here and across Canada – why would Premier MacLauchlan not want easy and immediate “proxy access” to those extensive files electronically? Electronic files can be easily searched and located far more efficiently than paper files stored in boxes and filing cabinets, so why would Premier MacLauchlan want them deleted? It makes no sense and immediately raises suspicions concerning motives leading to the decision to destroy these important electronic government records.
If Ghiz’s files were destroyed without first being copied and protected, and someone was to file an Access request asking for any of those records, that person would simply receive a response indicating that no records were found, and that would be the end of it.
If electronic files had not been deleted, and the computer accounts had simply been “disabled” – and that person was to file an Access request asking for any of those records, those records would have to be printed and provided to the person making the FOIPP request.
And given the fact that the briefing which Wade MacLauchlan received within a week or 10 days of becoming premier was a “joint briefing” covering both the Provincial Archives and Records Office (PARO) and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Office (FOIPP) [See: Public Accounts Transcript, February 1, 2017, p. 92] Premier MacLauchlan would have been fully aware of the legal requirements to protect these records:
Two Questions Political Reporters Need to ask the Premier
Yesterday’s revelation – in the form of the ITSS Employee Removal Form for Robert Ghiz – that all Ghiz’s network files and emails were destroyed on May 29, 2015 [and would no longer have been recoverable from the 1-year emergency “back-up” tape as of May 29, 2016] – raises serious concerns and two critically-important questions which Premier MacLauchlan must answer immediately, both of which are simple and straightforward:
1. Did you order and/or authorize former Clerk of Executive Council, Brian Douglas, to instruct ITSS to delete all of Ghiz’s electronic files, government records and emails?
2. Were all of these deleted records first copied and archived? If so, who did this work and where are these files presently located?
I challenge Premier MacLauchlan to honour his commitment to openness, transparency and accountability and call a news conference to answer any and all questions from the media related to the destruction of Premier Ghiz’s electronic records.