Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Senate scandal : the missing emails

Here's RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton explaining why he does not have access to the emails of Stephen Harper's personal PMO legal counsel Ben Perrin who handled the negotiations for the Duffy/Wright cheque deal with Duffy's lawyer Janice Payne:
I was advised that the e-mails of Benjamin Perrin were no longer available because he completed his tenure at the PMO in April 2013.
The emails were deleted mere weeks after they were written and a month before the Duffy deal went public because, as it happens, that's apparently standard practice for a departing employee.
How is that even credible?

Harper's dcomm Jason MacDonald explains
"Under the guidelines the Treasury Board has, the individual is required to distinguish between what should be considered a permanent document that should be preserved and what's a transitory document, as they call it, and can be deleted, and the onus is on the individual to make that distinction."
So it was up to Perrin to decide what to delete? Really?

"I just don't understand how any regime regarding documentation relating to an employee who is departing can leave it to the departing employee to decide which documents shall remain available to the employer and which shall not. I just don't understand it."
It seems quite mad really, as it could theoretically encourage the practice of hiring shortpantsers on the taxpayers' dime, after which all written evidence of whatever nefarious schemes they were asked to perpetrate could be erased. 

Law prof Amir Attaran has laid a complaint of professional misconduct with the law societies of BC and Ontario re Perrin and Payne, and also he raises this important point :
Horton writes that that the prime minister’s office waived solicitor-client privilege for those emails. That doesn’t mean that the prime minister has also waived privilege, Attaran points out. “The wording of the ITO is that PMO has waived privilege, not that the PM has.”
That may be relevant, he said, because Perrin may have had a “joint retainer,” meaning that he may have had both the office and the prime minister as his clients.
Perrin is mentioned over 30 times in the allegations of the RCMP affidavit, and while Horton states Perrin was not involved in Wright's decision to cut Duffy a cheque, these excerpts give an indication of what we might be missing in Perrin's missing emails :
Nigel Wright decided that he would personally cover the cost of reimbursing Senator Duffy. After back and forth negotiations between Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set.
Mr. Perrin became involved after the February 19, 2013, exchange when Senator Duffy asked for the name of a legal representative who his lawyer could communicate with. Thereinafter, Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin communicated on this matter; Mr. Perrin was aware of Mr. Wright's personal decision to pay the money, but was in no way involved in the decision. 
Mr. Wright was not happy with Senator Duffy, and was no longer wishing to debate the matter. He told Senator Duffy that from that point on they will deal lawyer to lawyer on the matter (Payne and Perrin);
On February 21, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin requesting media lines
On February 21, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin with a list of 5 conditions or demands Benjamin Perrin followed up with an e-mail to Nigel Wright advising that Janice Payne wanted the agreement in writing, and stated, "I explained that was not happening. We aren't selling a car or settling a lawsuit here. She seemed to get it eventually."
On March 1, Janice Payne e-mailed Benjamin Perrin for an update on Senator Duffy being withdrawn from the Deloitte audit.
On March 5, Janice Payne e-mailed Benjamin Perrin and Arthur Hamilton (Conservative Party lawyer) seeking advice.
On March 20, after sending an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin and Arthur Hamilton about the Deloitte process, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Senator Tkachuk seeking confirmation that the audit would be called off upon repayment.
On March 23, Janice Payne e-mailed Benjamin Perrin and stated: "Ben, yesterday we discussed the Senator sending a cheque to Deloitte with a letter explaining our position that the ongoing review should now be moot. I am preparing such a letter." She then sent Mr. Perrin a draft of the letter she intended to send to Deloitte, and solicited comments from Mr. Perrin and Nigel Wright.
Nigel Wright responded to Benjamin Perrin: think that this is perfectly fine (and I resist making minor suggestions since I would prefer to be able to answer, if necessary, that PMO did not write it)
In an earlier e-mail to Benjamin Perrin, Nigel Wright stated: think her approach works. I will send my cheque on Monday.
On March 24, Janice Payne sent an e-mail to Benjamin Perrin stating that Senator Duffy . .. asks for assurance that should any Senator seek his removal, the Gov 't leader in the Senate will urge her caucus to vote against such a motion
On March 26, Benjamin Perrin received an e-mail from Janice Payne's office stating "we have just sent the cheque to Senator Tkachuk by courier".

And then Mr. Perrin, along with all his emails, was gone.  Image from CTV.
Dec 2 Update : Well, wouldn't you know it? They'd just fallen down the back of the couch.
Dec 5 Update : ITO contains 24 references to PMO legal counsel, Benjamin Perrin, dating from the time Mr. Wright began arranging a plan to end the controversy over Sen. Duffy’s expenses until it was completed.


Unknown said...

Lest we forget, Pierre Pout was also a lone rogue. Perhaps the elected cons are all lone rogues and there is no effective leadership on the con ship ss harper. Makes sense harper surrounds himself with lone rogues, then closets himself away with more important matters like ahem well...

So you must realize peasant non-oily Canadians Herr harper has more important things to do before he is banished from the Canadian political landscape forever. Like giving resource extraction/removal companies free rein with the environment, hiring foreign workers at pennies on the loonie plus no benefits needed for them, more profit and still reap immense tax benefits. Wow I think the head lone rogue harper has an assured cush chairman job when he leaves lone roguesville:-)

past said...

The transitory document policy is standard. It is meant to allow employees to delete emails whose content is "do you want to go for lunch?" "have a good vacation!" "happy birthday!" and the endless streams of out of office prompts that pop up around Christmas, provincial holidays, and in the summer.

As with most rules, its implementation assumes the employee is working in good faith and is actually putting emails with business value or that capture important decisions in the proper repository.

(Remember: information management professionals are among the first targeted by budget cuts, and the amounts of electronic material created is staggering. There are not enough IM/RM staff to manage everyone's emails, so you have to assume the employee is a decent person. However, if they've flagged everything to be deleted that should be a red flag of two things: fraud and/or incompetence.)

Anonymous said...

Cpl. Horton and his forensic investigators are probably aware that Mr. Perrin's and Mr. Wright's earlier, pre-deletion, emails probably still exist on server backup media somewhere. Every organisation I worked with (private and public) kept long term backups for disaster recovery purposes.

Anonymous said...

One living in British Columbia should have more than a good understanding of how the "deleted emails from government servers" works. Did Crusty take her lead from Perrin about that or vice versa?
Imagine putting any faith in the RCMP at whatever level being able to do a forensic accounting?!

Anonymous said...

Senate scandal creates no paper trail in PM’s own department

"The Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that serves the prime minister's operations, reported in June it did not have a single document of any description related to the scandal involving senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin or others involved in the controversy, including Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

This revelation came in response to requests by reporters and others using the Access to Information Act to obtain all documents in the possession of the Privy Council relating to the Senate scandal."

Anonymous said...

The NSA has those emails - the RCMP just needs to ask our American cousins for them.

sinned34 said...

Computer nerd here. They should be able to restore the database from backups to recover any and all emails from any recently-released former staff member.

If they don't have those backups, then their IT staff is incompetent and should be fired.

Out of a cannon.

Into the sun.

MgS said...

I call bullshit on the deleted e-mails. Those should be sitting on a backup of the mail server somewhere.

There are legal and commercial considerations that would require them to be retained, even if the user "deletes" them from their application. (If they were using the parliamentary e-mail system, I would expect those kinds of rules to apply.

It is notable that Duffy was using an address, and Wright may also have been using a non-parliamentary e-mail as well - in which case retention is a different matter. Of course, one might argue that doing so is also an attempt to subvert the retention policies typical in large IT shops.

Anonymous said...

How eager would the RCMP brass be to demand the hard drives containing Perrin's emails from the PMO ?
Not very, I shouldn't think.

The head of the RCMP personally added Ralph Goodale's name to a 2005 mid-election news release about income trust irregularities, thereby throwing the election to the Conservatives. He was rewarded with a nice cushy post at Interpol in Paris.

Anonymous said...

Might be that the RCMP don't have to go to their cousins at the NSA - the Communications Security Establishment Canada should have access to everything too.

Anonymous said...

Dec 1 PCO advises RCMP they have found all Perrin's emails, previously thought deleted.

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