RCMP announce preliminary probe into missing emails, same day as Times Colonist editorial declares:” The people who ordered the records destroyed have no place in government…”

Quote of the week, from the Times Colonist editorial of July 18th, 2009 (  thanks to Gazetteer for this heads up )

” ….No one employed by the government could be unaware of the charges against Dave Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi. It is beyond belief to think that any senior government employee would not know better than to destroy evidence that could be needed in a major court case.

That is apparently what has happened, according to evidence presented to the court this week. To make matters worse, some e-mails were destroyed after the defence lawyers asked to see them.

The loss of these documents is a serious problem for the B.C. Liberal government, one that will plague Premier Gordon Campbell and his cabinet until the next election.

Campbell’s only real choice, if he wants to restore his government’s credibility, is to give British Columbians a full accounting of what went wrong and who was to blame. The people who ordered the records destroyed have no place in government….. ”

Today, Justice Bennett rules on the relevance of those missing emails -a crucial moment for the Premier et al. Court is open to the public and the Basi-Virk hearing begins at 9 am. Details for today’s hearing can be viewed here, under case #23299 : http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/court-lists/criminal/lists/Vancouver_Law_Courts-Supreme_Court_List.pdf

In another move missed by most, the RCMP announced Saturday that they have launched a preliminary probe into the missing emails to determine if a full criminal investigation is warranted.

As per the Province article link from last weekend’s Sunday edition, RCMP spokesperson Cst. Tim Shields had this to say: ” We wouldn’t go ahead and launch a full-fledged criminal investigation until there was evidence there are violations of the federal Criminal Code or provincial statutes. At first blush . . . the destruction of internal e-mails does not appear to constitute a criminal offence.” http://www.theprovince.com/news/Cops+launch+preliminary+probe+into+missing+Rail+mails/1805674/story.html

Well, if destruction of emails that were requested by lawyers two years ago in a court of law as possible evidence ISN’ T obstruction of justice, what is?

Clearly, Madame Bennett has a very important decision to make. It all rests in her hands.

14 Comments on “RCMP announce preliminary probe into missing emails, same day as Times Colonist editorial declares:” The people who ordered the records destroyed have no place in government…”

  1. “…At first blush . . . the destruction of internal e-mails does not appear to constitute a criminal offence.”

    Then what the heck would you call it Sir?!

    Those are “Executive Branch” emails – that by LAW are to be kept for TEN years from date of closure! Are you saying that no one knew, or understood that? Destroying them after the Defense in an ongoing court case has been asking for them for 2 years (for damn good reason I’d say, otherwise, why were destroyed?)…I’d say someone better start blushing 3 or 4 times and do their damn job! That “someone” would be the RCMP – this is your chance to redeem yourselves in the eye of the public – don’t blow it.

    With the stonewalling, missed opportunities, and blatant “in your face” attitude of those in power regarding this trial, and the miss-steps of law enforcement compounding it all – there is very little reason left for the electorate of this Province to respect anyone in power whether it’s government, courts, or police force. Please restore respect…because we want to – not because it’s demanded of us.

  2. Well said, Leah.
    Considering Justice Bennett has ordered the government to produce those emails now, I think this is a bit of a different ball game being played now, and things are going to get interesting, I hope.

    Ever thought of politics Leah? Your passion is admirable!

  3. Which statute requires that the emails be kept for 10 years Leah?

  4. Salvatore, this is taken from the governments own website, regarding Documents and Records Management. The emails of the Premier and his Ministers/Aides is considered as Executive:

    Executive Records (schedule 102906)
    ________________________________________
    A SA FD
    SO 10y SR
    Executive records are the administrative and operational records of the offices of ministers, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, and equivalent positions.
    Included are records in all formats and media and records classified and scheduled under all primaries of the Administrative Records Classification System (ARCS) and Operational Records Classification System (ORCS) or other records schedules.
    This special schedule for executive records takes precedence over retention periods and final dispositions indicated in ARCS and ORCS, unless one of those records classification systems specifies a longer retention period or full retention for a given record series.
    SO = when file is closed
    NOTE: Contact your Records Officer before disposing of any records from executive offices. Off-site storage and retrieval services may be arranged through Records Centre Services at (250) 387-1583.
    10y = All executive records will be retained for a minimum combined active and semi-active retention period of ten years from the date of file closure. In some cases, a longer combined active and semi-active retention period may be required under ARCS or ORCS.
    SR = The government archives will selectively retain executive records because of their significant operational, legal, historical, evidential, informational, or other values.
    Executive records often document the development, implementation, operation, and evaluation of government legislation, programs, and services. Such records are unique primary source documents and will be retained.
    The government archives will fully retain records which pertain to legal precedence, audits or special investigations.
    The government archives will fully retain for their evidential value all policy and procedure files created by offices having primary responsibility for policy and procedure development and approval. Draft and duplicate materials which hold no evidential value may be purged and discarded.
    Executive records may contain a large volume of transitory and ephemeral material. For example, ministers often receive high volumes of form letters relating to a single issue. In most instances, a sample will be retained and the rest will be discarded. In unusual instances, all letters may be retained.
    As with all government records and as noted in the “How to Use” section of ARCS and ORCS, routine records of no value will be discarded. Unnecessary duplicates, publications, waste and scrap materials, and other items which are not an integral part of the record series will be purged and destroyed.

  5. The management of the B.C. Government’s information and communications technology is defined by legislation and the government’s Core Policy and Procedures Manual. The CIO is primarily responsible for Chapter 12 on information and technology management and this policy has relationships to virtually every other Core Policy chapter.

    http://www.cio.gov.bc.ca/legislation/default.asp

  6. Hi Laila,

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the emails won’t be produced and the trial will end up being dismissed due to lack of evidence (or whatever.)

    At which time contempt of court and obstruction of justice charges need to be laid. It’s time to cut pols off at the knees.

    Not sure about the politics thing for me Laila, that requires a background free of “human” error – and I’ve been very human. However; I can be of greater service to the people by holding politicians accountable – like you. I think we do more “out here” than we ever could “in there.” 🙂

  7. Leah, despite being executive records, I think the transitory email defence is what the premiers lawyers have still been using. Of course, we all know how much can be revealed by a few simple words.

    I hear you Leah, although I think I’m still heading over to the dark side. I hear they have cookies…..( to quote my favorite t-shirt : ” Come over to the Dark Side. We have cookies…” )

  8. Transitory Records (schedule 102901)

    Transitory records are records of temporary usefulness that are not an integral part of an administrative or operational record series, that are not regularly filed with standard records or filing systems, and that are only required for a limited period of time for the completion of a routine action or the preparation of an ongoing record.

    Transitory records are not required to meet statutory obligations or to sustain administrative or operational functions. Originals or copies required for statutory, legal, fiscal, administrative or operational purposes will be retained in a regular filing system and disposed of separately in accord with the Document Disposal Act. This schedule covers the following types of transitory records.

    1.1 CONVENIENCE COPIES
    Extra copies of records created and retained only for the convenience of reference, including photocopies.
    NOTE: This schedule does NOT cover day files, crutch files, or chronological files. Disposition of those records will be approved separately in accord with the Document Disposal Act

    1.2 UNNECESSARY DUPLICATES
    Stocks of publications, pamphlets, blank forms, informational material, etc. which have no further usefulness.

    1.3 WORKING MATERIALS AND DRAFTS
    Rough notes, steno work materials, word processor diskette copies, calculations, preliminary drafts, rough research notes, and similar materials used in the preparation of correspondence, reports, memoranda, statistical tabulations, or other records.
    Once the finished record has been produced, documented, and incorporated into a regular filing or records system, these working materials become transitory records.

    NOTE: This schedule does not cover working materials and drafts that are described or specified in some other records schedule. For example, this schedule does NOT cover working materials relating to the preparation of legislation or audit reports. Disposition of records relating to legislation and other specified working papers will be approved separately in accord with the Document Disposal Act. If you have any questions about a specific type of working paper, please contact your Records Officer.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If the premiers lawyers are still using that argument, the Judge needs to smack ’em one upside the head! They KNOW better than that, but hope that we don’t.

    Perhaps the way to get through to them is to ask if they would consider any documents related to the pay they are receiving at the goodness of the taxpayer as transitory? If yes, then throw all the documents out. No documents, no pay. Nice idea, however; the Records Officer is the one who decides if it’s an ARCS or ORCS document, and whether it was considered transitory in nature.

    The SUREST way for us to know what those documents contained (in part) would be for premier fudget to provide a NON-redacted copy of the sale agreement for thorough analysis by an INDEPENDENT lawyer and an accountant. Yes, at this point – I’m not trusting anyone. Least of all anyone in his office.

  9. The only way to work on the dark side is to shine a spot light – and not let yourself be taken over by ideology. You’re a strong lady Laila, perhaps strong enough to clean up a vipers nest (or 3)…in time.

    I’ll be out here watching for ya…hehehe…and pickin’…:)

  10. Still no criminal offense, only policy breaches at best. I could not find a penalty section for any of the above.

  11. Salvatore, respectfully…it wouldn’t matter if there were a penalty section – you wouldn’t see it, and if you saw it you wouldn’t admit it.

    If you can excuse what they’ve done, and say it wasn’t wrong – there is little I can discuss with you to have you see the criminality of the whole issue. If it were an accident, I might be able to see past it – maybe. But it obviously wasn’t – and lies were told by people whose integrity we depend on to keep our best interests at heart.

    There is no right way to do the wrong thing, and there’s no way to defend the indefensible. Ciao.

  12. If the BC Liberals have had nothing to hide then why would have they ordered the emails to be destroyed? they knew the matter was before the courts too.

    “VANCOUVER — The trial judge in the political corruption case of two former B.C. government aides has ordered the disclosure to the defence of Premier Gordon Campbell’s e-mails. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett granted the defence application to obtain the e-mails and other communications of the premier, key staff members — including the premier’s chief of staff — and a number of cabinet members at the time of the controversial sale of BC Rail in 2004. The judge found the documents related to BC Rail are likely relevant. Two former government aides, Dave Basi and Bob Virk, are accused of corruption, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly leaking confidential information about the BC Rail bidding process, including cabinet confidences, in exchange for cash and other benefits, such as a trip to Denver to see a football game, paid for by OmniTrax. Defence lawyer Michael Bolton said outside court Monday he was extremely pleased with Bennett’s ruling, adding it was one of the most important so far. He said the documents being sought go to the heart of the defence’s case, which is that the former political aides were only following the orders of their political masters — cabinet ministers responsible for the $1-billion privatization sale of BC Rail’s freight division to CN Rail. A court order was issued by the judge, forcing the government to produce the documents. Whether the documents exist is still in question. The government initially said the material didn’t exist because backup tapes containing e-mails are only kept for 13 months.”

    “The RCMP have launched a preliminary probe into missing e-mails in the B.C. Rail corruption case to determine if a more involved criminal investigation is necessary. “We wouldn’t go ahead and launch a full-fledged criminal investigation until there was evidence there are violations of the federal Criminal Code or provincial statutes,” RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said Saturday. “At first blush . . . the destruction of internal e-mails does not appear to constitute a criminal offence.” MLA Leonard Krog, the NDP’s attorney-general critic, wrote to the criminal justice branch of the A-G’s office requesting it probe an “apparent obstruction of justice” regarding the e-mails. He sent a copy of the complaint, which also requested a special prosecutor be appointed to oversee the investigation, to the RCMP commissioner. Assistant deputy A-G Robert Gillen responded in writing to Krog that he had referred his request to the RCMP, Krog said Friday. Shields, who hadn’t yet been notified of Gillen’s letter, said receipt of Krog’s carbon-copied e-mail would have by itself prompted a preliminary probe. Gillen’s letter said the appointment of a special prosecutor would be up to the Mounties. Shields said the RCMP would request a special prosecutor if the government asked for one. Court heard last week that e-mails by Premier Gordon Campbell were ordered destroyed in May, just before the Liberals were re-elected for a third term.

    “But court heard last month that all cabinet emails between 2001 and 2005 could have been erased in May, when the Liberal government was re-elected to its third term, touching off speculation about who would have ordered their destruction and why. “The destruction of evidence, whether by recklessness, negligence or a wilful failure to preserve could be a very significant factor to the outcome of this case and it potentially could lead to a motion for abuse of process,” Bennett said. “Ultimately, the cabinet ministers that Mr. Virk and Mr. Basi worked for are slated to be witnesses in their trial so these emails are very important for trial purposes.” Bennett said the material is likely relevant and she wants it by Aug. 17, after which she will review it before deciding whether it is connected to the case. Leonard Krog, the Opposition NDP’s critic for the Attorney General’s Ministry, said the judge’s ruling has cast a broad net among former cabinet ministers and other high-ranking officials. “I think even the premier of British Columbia has to be accountable to the courts when there are accused people before the courts and relevant evidence is apparently available,” he said. “If this government had co-operated earlier it wouldn’t look so bad as it does now,” he said. “The fact is they should have co-operated. It was the right, moral, legally correct thing to do and they haven’t done so to date.” Krog has called for a public inquiry into the supposed destruction of the emails, saying a provincial statute calls for electronic records must be kept for at least 10 years. Virk’s lawyer, Kevin McCullough told court last month that the RCMP failed to obtain emails connected to its raid of the legislature even after former deputy finance minister Dave Morhart said in a statement that he’d saved about 2,000 of them. McCullough said that suggests the Mounties targeted Virk and Basi from the beginning. Morhart is among the officials whose emails Bennett requested Monday. The judge also said police did not seek emails from Collins, the former finance minister, during their investigation of the BC Rail deal. ” http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/090720/national/legislature_raid

    and what other bad things will they all do next too? Don’t expect the too often incompetent, Useless buck passing RCMP to do much about it too.. I rightfully have never been a fan of the self centered BC Liberals or the bad RCMP now too.

    The B.C. Liberals campaigned just three months ago on a promise to protect health care. They are now cutting health services. Rather than protecting care, Health Minister Kevin Falcon has told the province’s health authorities to cut $360 million this year – about 3.5 per cent of the spending needed to maintain care. Anyone who questioned this promise during the campaign was told to read the Liberals’ lips – no cuts. Anyone who suggested otherwise was accused of being biased toward the NDP. So what happened between now and then? Funding for the authorities has increased 5.8 per cent, a significant amount, but well short of what the authorities say they need to maintain care at last year’s levels. And that is what a sensible voter would have assumed the Liberals meant with their repeated promises to protect health care. It’s disturbing that only now – more than three months into the fiscal year – is the government revealing its true intentions. Competent management would have seen the health authority budgets reviewed and decisions made before the fiscal year began, so they could plan properly. Cuts will now have to be deeper. It’s much more disturbing that the level of health-care service is being allowed to decline as the need increases, driven by an aging and growing population. While we can appreciate that all cost-saving measures should be examined, and even encouraged, British Columbians did not vote for reduced care, longer waits for treatment and cuts to community-based care.

    So what happened?

  13. And is it really necessary to reprint the entire news item of a report before commenting???