Ex-provincial staffer charged in email affair

Two charges of making false statements to information and privacy commissioner laid against George Gretes by special prosecutor

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham

A former ministerial assistant to Transportation Minister Todd Stone has been charged with two offences under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for his role in a complaint about deleted government emails.

A special prosecutor approved two charges against George Gretes for “willfully making false statements to mislead, or attempt to mislead” the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Commissioner Elizabeth Denham referred the case to police after Gretes testified in her investigation that he didn’t delete a series of emails from a subordinate’s computer during a search in response to a freedom of information request.

Gretes resigned in October 2015 when Denham released her report on the 2014 incident, which found that Gretes had used another employee’s computer to “triple delete” a series of emails.

Stone has maintained that the deleted emails were not the official records dealing with community meetings about improving travel options along Highway 16 in northern B.C., which was the subject of the request. The ministry has since released hundreds of pages of records about the project.

The incident prompted Premier Christy Clark to order all political staff in the government to keep all emails as the procedure for handling electronic communications is updated.

Former privacy commissioner David Loukidelis reviewed the case and recommended that non-partisan public servants should decide what records should be kept and what can be destroyed as duplicate or transitory messages.

Loukidelis warned that with hundreds of millions of emails sent and received each year, trying to evaluate every message would cause the B.C. government to “grind to a halt.”