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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: Vancouver mayor uses Gmail for city hall work

Exclusive: Vancouver mayor uses Gmail for city hall work


Bob Mackin

Another case of a public figure using a personal email account and deleting his email at Vancouver city hall.

This time, Mayor Gregor Robertson is the centre of attention.

theBreaker discovered that Robertson’s chief of staff, Kevin Quinlan, sent the Vision Vancouver leader an email in June 2016, to both his personal address and his city hall address. The email included a copy of what Quinlan had earlier sent to an aide for federal families, children and social development minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Mike Magee (left) and Mayor Gregor Robertson. Birds of a feather, hide email together. (Twitter)

theBreaker filed a freedom of information request for all correspondence, from 2014 to 2017, between Robertson’s Gmail account and nine party insiders and developers. 

In a Dec. 12 letter, city access to information and privacy director Barbara Van Fraassen wrote: “The Mayor confirms that no city business is conducted on his personal email account. City business-related emails received on this account are forwarded to the appropriate City of Vancouver department or the Mayor’s City of Vancouver account and then deleted.” 

Van Fraassen provided no proof. Robertson did not respond for comment.

A separate request, for all email between Robertson’s Gmail account and any City of Vancouver account, was delayed by Van Fraassen’s office from Dec. 4 to Jan. 18. The delay letter said meeting the time limit would interfere with city hall operations because a large number of records were requested or must be searched.

Vince Gogolek, the executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said there is an obvious contradiction.

“They’re saying no city business is conducted on the email account, but the other thing you sent me shows that city business was at least copied to his Gmail account,” Gogolek told theBreaker. “So it seems like there’s a bit of an inconsistency there. Of course the question is what happens to the information that does go there, assuming this is not just a one-off.”

Gogolek said former B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham was very clear when she issued a directive to elected and appointed officials across the province: any work-related email sent to or received from a personal email account is still subject to the search and disclosure provisions of the FOI law. The letter to theBreaker from city hall about Robertson’s Gmail account does not indicate whether a comprehensive search took place. 

Wrote Denham in her 2015 directive: “The use of personal email accounts for work purposes can give the perception that public body employees are seeking to evade the freedom of information process.”

Government email sent to Vancouver Mayor’s Gmail account (CoV)

When he was sworn-in as mayor nine years ago, Robertson promised: “I will not let you down on making city hall more open and accountable.”

In June 2016, however, Denham issued a scathing report that found city hall under Robertson routinely broke the FOI law. Denham’s staff began the investigation in November 2015, after The Province revealed that Robertson’s then-chief of staff, Mike Magee, mass-deleted his email. 

Magee also used a private email account to receive messages about public business. In July 2012, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes sent email to Magee’s Convergence Communications consulting company, while the social media advertising and analytics company negotiated to lease a city building that had been removed from public tender.

The B.C. NDP ran on a platform that included a promise for a duty to document law. It did not introduce any FOI reform during the fall session of the Legislature. Ex-Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs is now Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff.

Elsewhere, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was caught earlier this year using his Saskatchewan Party email account for public business. He vowed he would stop, but the Regina Leader-Post reported Oct. 1 that Wall continued to his private email for public business. 

Coincidentally, Hillary Clinton is in Vancouver Dec. 13 to promote her “What Happened” book about the 2016 presidential election defeat to Donald Trump. 

Clinton was investigated for using a private email server while she was Secretary of State. FBI director James Comey concluded she was “extremely careless,” but did not press charges. Critics, however, believe her husband, Bill Clinton, tampered with the investigation when he held a private meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on a private jet in June 2016 at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. 

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