A special prosecutor has approved charges against a former BC government ministerial aide, in connection to the “triple delete” scandal.
The Criminal Justice Branch says former Ministry of Transportation Ministerial Assistant George Steven Gretes has been charged with two counts, under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Gretes is charged with willfully making false statements to mislead, or attempt to mislead B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham during her investigation into the matter.
During that investigation Gretes was under oath.
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These charges come as a result of the Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s scathing report “Access Denied” – which blasted the government for it’s deliberately deleting emails linked to freedom of information requests.
Gretes is set to appear in court on April 20th in Victoria.
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association welcomes charges
But Executive Director Vincent Gogolek says even if Gretes is found guilty, the maximum penalty is a $5000 fine.
And he notes, there isn’t actual repercussions in B.C. for mishandling of information – like triple-deleting emails.
“Seven out of the other 10 penalties have stronger penalties…actual penalties for the destruction part, so we’re looking for that.”
Gogolek points a recent poll which found the majority of BC residents agree — the penalties for deleting government records needs to be higher in this province.
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The whistleblower behind the scandal says it is some relief to hear his former boss is facing charges.
However, Tim Duncan says has no ill will for Gretes, who he called “a good guy” who was a victim of the culture of this government.
“He is a relatively mid-level guy. He was pressured to do this. He is a young guy. I think he is 27. So I think he kind of got caught up in the moment of the government culture.”
Duncan says there needs to be protection for whistleblowers.
“I am telling the truth to the Commission. Everybody else is saying ‘no, no, he is a disgruntled employee’, ‘he is lying’, ‘he is trying to make us look bad’. Had that been allowed to stand, you are totally wrecking my ability, not only to get another job, but you are just totally wrecking me. I have told the truth and each step of the way I have been proven correct.”
Duncan says what happened with Gretes is just the tip of the iceberg.
“George’s problems are one thing and I think the government needs to address that there has been a problem with their culture the last decade or so.”
He says the people who pressured Gretes to delete emails have escaped scot-free while he faces the music.
“It is absolutely mandatory you have integrity in a top level government. There is none out there. There is none in Victoria anyone who thinks there is, is delusional.”