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After False Start, New Special Prosecutor Joins Deleted Email Probe

Lawyer Mark Jetté will decide whether or not to lay criminal charges based on RCMP evidence.

By Andrew MacLeod 25 Nov 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Following the hasty withdrawal last week of the first special prosecutor named to aid with the criminal investigation related to a BC Liberal government official's alleged illegal deletion of emails, a new one has been appointed.

The criminal justice branch announced today that Mark Jetté, a Vancouver lawyer whose firm specializes in criminal defence, will be available to provide legal advice to RCMP investigators and will assess whether charges are merited.

The investigation arose out of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's recent report to the government, Access Denied: Record Retention and Disposal Practices of the Government of British Columbia.

Denham found that George Gretes, a ministerial assistant to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone, had likely deleted emails that were subject to a freedom of information request related to the Highway of Tears in northern B.C.

During Denham's investigation, Gretes at first denied having deleted the emails on former staffer Tim Duncan's computer, but later changed his story, Denham wrote. "The Commissioner has referred this case to the RCMP for investigation, including Gretes' failure to tell the truth under oath," her report said.

First try unlucky

On Nov. 19 the criminal justice branch announced the appointment of Greg DelBigio as the special prosecutor on the case, but he withdrew that afternoon.

A statement from the criminal justice branch said that following the announcement, "questions were publicly raised about the fact that Mr. DelBigio is presently acting as defence counsel in a separate case which is being managed by a Special Prosecutor, involving allegations of offences said to have been committed under the provincial Election Act by someone who was an employee of the BC Liberal Party at the material time."

DelBigio is the lawyer for Mark Robertson, one of two people charged in the separate "Quick Wins" case involving the use of government resources to conduct multicultural outreach to voters. The special prosecutor on that case is David Butcher.

"Neither Mr. DelBigio, nor the Criminal Justice Branch, considers this situation as one that gives rise to any real or apparent conflict of interest," the statement said. "However, out of an abundance of caution and in recognition of the importance of safeguarding the perceived and actual integrity of the investigation and prosecution process, Mr. DelBigio has decided to withdraw from his appointment as Special Prosecutor."

Special prosecutors are independent from the government, justice ministry and criminal justice branch. The Crown Counsel Act allows for such an appointment "where some aspect of an investigation, or prosecution file, carries a significant potential for real or perceived improper influence in prosecutorial decision making."

The day Denham released Access Denied, Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services Minister Amrik Virk said the government had accepted Gretes' resignation.

Denham's report detailed the deletion of emails in the transportation ministry alongside other examples of poor record management in the ministry of advanced education and in Premier Christy Clark's office.

"In the course of this investigation, we uncovered negligent searches for records, a failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches, and the willful destruction of records responsive to an access request," Denham said when she released the report. "Taken together, these practices threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia."  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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