'I did not delete emails': Senior P.E.I. government employee testifies before committee

·4 min read

One of the figures at the centre of a controversy over missing P.E.I. government emails testified before a legislative standing committee on Wednesday to explain how a swath of his emails could have disappeared.

Brad Mix, a senior civil servant with the Crown corporation responsible for economic development in the province, told the committee he first became aware of the missing emails back in 2015 after trying to locate one dated from November 2011.

He said he had been looking for that specific email in response to a request from the lawyer representing the province in an ongoing legal battle over efforts to set up a financial services centre in the province.

Mix said when he couldn't find it, he contacted someone from the government's IT department and they discovered Mix was missing email archives from June 2010 to April 2012.

While that one specific email was eventually tracked down through the account of one of the people in government who received it, the rest of Mix's emails from that period are still missing.

'I really wish I had all my emails'

Mix told the committee he did not delete them, saying at the time he discovered they were missing he was told they could have been lost through a phone upgrade or through problems with the province's Groupwise email program.

"I did not do anything to destroy any of my email archives. I did not do anything knowingly to cause the gap that exists in my email archives," Mix told the committee. "I really wish I had all my emails."

Those emails were the subject of freedom-of-information requests from at least two different people — including one from the head of the company suing the province for millions in the ongoing legal battle over failed efforts to set up a financial services centre in P.E.I.

A decision by the P.E.I. Court of Appeal Wednesday exonerated Mix and 13 others of any wrong-doing connected with the so-called e-gaming file.

Capital Markets Technologies launched a lawsuit in 2017 alleging the provincial government breached its contract with the company to set up a financial services centre.

The court decision found Mix didn't breach any proprietary or confidential information involved with that file.

In June the province's privacy commissioner released a report saying the failure to archive the emails was a breach of the province's Archives and Records Act. The commissioner also criticized government for not telling the two applicants who requested the emails the documents were missing, saying the province "deliberately withheld this important information" in violation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Possibilities ruled out

Just a few weeks before Mix testified, John Brennan, the province's director of business infrastructure services, told the same committee the emails could not have disappeared during a phone upgrade. He also said if the data had been corrupted IT would be able to see the corrupted data and possibly repair it.

And Brennan said the emails could not have been deleted accidentally.

When asked if there was anyone else who had proxy access to his email account, Mix identified his administrative assistant but said, "I've worked with that person for 15 years and quite trustworthy, that person for sure."

The emails are just the latest batch to disappear from the period of time from 2009 to 2012, when the province was pursuing a controversial — and secretive -- bid to become a regulator for online gambling, otherwise known as P.E.I.'s egaming affair.

Reputation 'sullied'

Mix said government had done a lot more "due diligence" when it comes to record management in recent years. He went on to ask the committee that their work include better protection for "transparent" employees.

"Those people, five years after the fact, shouldn't have their reputation sullied, really, because they alerted to a problem in the system," he said.

Mix agreed to hand over the report to the committee from the IT department and for the 2011 email that first alerted him to the issue, if he can get permission from his department to do that.

Former government deputy minister Melissa (MacEachern) James and former chief of staff to Robert Ghiz, Chris LeClair, will appear before the committee on Nov. 6. In her report, the Auditor General said their emails were improperly deleted.

"Frustrating" situation

After today's testimony, Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said he was convinced that Mix did not delete those emails, but that the situation "is frustrating."

"There are really no other paths down which we can go to try and find out what actually happened here," Bevan-Baker said, but that his primary concern is figuring out how to avoid something like this from ever happening again.

"At some point, somebody did something to make those emails delete," said MLA Sidney MacEwen. He said he wants a forensic audit done to determine exactly what happened.

"It's frustrating that, you know, we still haven't been able to put our finger right on the detail of what's missing."

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