Less than a week since Vancouver’s mayor announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in October, theBreaker has confirmed that Gregor Robertson used a Gmail address to send and receive thousands of email messages between early 2014 and late 2017.
theBreaker discovered last fall that lame duck Robertson used his personal Google email account to receive civic documents in 2016 and subsequently asked for all of Robertson’s correspondence on that address with any city hall official between Jan. 1, 2014 and Oct. 20, 2017.
City hall was supposed to respond by Dec. 4, but invoked a delay to Jan. 18.
On Jan. 15, three days before the new deadline, city hall received approval from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for a further delay of 100 business days to June 13.
OIPC officer James Gartshore turned-down the city’s application for a 250-business day delay, which would have prevented disclosure of the mayor’s email until after the Oct. 20 civic election.
City hall claimed there is such a large number of records to search that it would unreasonably interfere with city hall operations to meet the deadline.
In his reasons for decision, Gartshore wrote: “The city has identified at least 6,213 pages of potentially responsive records for this request.
“Based on the information provided to the OIPC in the city’s request for approval, it appears that the city has been diligently processing this request and meeting the time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the public body.”
Gartshore required city hall to immediately inform theBreaker of the delay and suggested the city should avoid a June 13 document dump.
“The city should release reviewed records to the applicant in stages as the review progresses,” he wrote. “The city should not delay releasing records merely to permit a ‘bulk release’ unless it is absolutely necessary for a global consideration of the disclosure package.”
In a Dec. 12 response to a separate request, for Robertson’s Gmail to and from nine party insiders and real estate developers, city access to information and privacy director Barbara Van Fraassen claimed Robertson doesn’t conduct city business on his personal email account, but “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.”
When she was B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham advised in 2015 against using personal email accounts for government business. She told elected and appointed government workers across the province that work-related email in a personal account was subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
“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,” Denham wrote.
Failed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the most-famous politician to take extreme measures to hide her email. She avoided charges for using a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Her husband, ex-president Bill Clinton, was accused of tampering when he held a private meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on his private jet in June 2016 in Phoenix.
“…there were literally thousands of people voting last November for the very first time. My commitment to them, on behalf of every member of my team, is that I will not let you down on making city hall more open and accountable.” –Gregor Robertson in his Dec. 8, 2008 swearing-in speech
In late 2015, Denham began to investigate Vancouver city hall. Her June 2016 report found it routinely broke the section of the FOI law that requires public servants to assist citizens in accessing information about their government. She noted city hall was discriminating against reporters and guilty of “inappropriate delays, failure to meet legislated timelines, missing documentation, incomplete responses, and adversarial communication with applicants.”
Denham, now the United Kingdom commissioner, launched the investigation in the wake of revelations that Robertson’s first chief of staff, Mike Magee, was mass-deleting email from his city hall account and using his Convergence Communications lobbying company email address to receive city hall-related messages.
When Robertson came to power in 2008, he promised in his swearing-in speech that he would make city hall more open and accountable.
“I will not let you down,” he vowed.