Attorney general takes Nanaimo councillor to court over release of confidential documents

Attorney general takes Nanaimo councillor to court over release of confidential documents

Coun. Gord Fuller and three other Nanaimo citizens named in Supreme Court petition

The provincial government is taking a Nanaimo city councillor to court.

The attorney general has filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against Coun. Gord Fuller and three other Nanaimo residents, Tim McGrath, Matthew O’Donnell and Terry Lee Wagar, ordering them to remove and delete confidential documents distributed online.

RELATED: Report finds that City of Nanaimo and councillor violated privacy laws

The material of concern is an 2015 e-mail authored by Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay to Heather McKenzie of the Integrity Group, a private consulting firm that was hired to help council deal with internal issues, and two letters sent in December 2015 by law firm Ramsay Lampman Rhodes to McKay and Tracy Samra, who was the city’s chief administrative officer at the time.

McKay’s e-mail contained highly sensitive comments about other city councillors.

In November 2016, McGrath appeared at a city council meeting and handed councillors with a copy of McKay’s e-mail, which he claims was left in an envelope under the windshield wiper of his truck. The province, alleges that Robert Fuller, the brother of councillor Fuller, as well as McGrath, distributed un-redacted copies of that e-mail to members of council and the public.

According to court documents, the province also alleges that one or both of the letters from RLR were posted online by McGrath, O’Donnell and Wagar. However, the province acknowledges that McGrath’s post containing one of the letters had been posted to Fuller’s Facebook group known as Gord Fuller Municipally A(Musing), but was later deleted.

Since the legal letters and McKay’s e-mail were posted online, the city has repeatedly demanded that all the individuals named in the province’s petition remove or destroy the material but they have refused to do so according to court documents.

The province argues the letters and McKay’s e-mail contained personal information belonging to third parties and that there is “no lawful authority” that grants the respondents the right to receive or disclose that information according to court documents.

The decision to take Fuller to court comes a little more than a month after the Office of the Information and Privacy for British Columbia released a report claiming that there were at least three leaks of confidential information that belonged to the City of Nanaimo and that one of those leaks came from a city councillor. Fuller previously told the Bulletin that he didn’t plan to remove the material from his Facebook group page.

The province’s allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Speaking to the News Bulletin, Fuller said the province is going to be filing a short-leave application tomorrow to have the case heard on Sept. 24, adding that they are going to “try and rush” the case through. Fuller explained that council received the Ramsay Lampman Rhodes e-mails “well before” council contemplated going in camera with them and that there was nothing on them that indicated that they were confidential.

With an election on the horizon and Fuller’s intention to run again, the city councillor said he felt like the province’s decision to come after him and others is a bit of a witch hunt.

“Why all of the sudden with an election coming, am I being targeted? And not just me, but other citizens of Nanaimo. What about the other breaches?” Fuller asked, adding that he does feel targeted.

Fuller said the city has been leaking all kinds of information and that he never leaked anything other than the Ramsay Lampman Rhodes e-mails. He called the entire situation a mess and said he has no plans to remove the material that he has been ordered to take down because the information is all over the internet now.

“If someone wants them, they can get them,” he said. 
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