BRITISH COLUMBIA

George Gretes, Todd Stone's Former Assistant, Charged In 'Triple Delete' Email Scandal

03/11/2016 02:52 EST | Updated 03/11/2016 07:59 EST

VICTORIA — Charges have been laid in the case of a former British Columbia government employee who allegedly deleted emails to skirt a freedom of information request.

George Gretes, who worked as a ministerial assistant in the Transportation Ministry, was charged Friday with two counts of wilfully making false statements to mislead or attempt to mislead the province's privacy commissioner under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

Last October privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a report on how the government holds onto records and information, such as emails

Her investigation was spurred by a whistleblower's allegations that his supervisor deleted emails about the Highway of Tears investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

"Triple deleted"

Tim Duncan submitted a complaint to Denham's office alleging records that were needed for the freedom of information request were "triple deleted.''

Denham's report says Gretes did not completely respond to freedom of information requests and allegedly lied about it under oath.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Denham's report also noted that several government departments failed to keep adequate email records and wilfully destroyed records in response to freedom of information requests.

The 65-page document recommended technology be installed to prevent employees from permanently deleting emails and legislation be created that would require the documentation of key government decisions.

Gretes suspended last spring

Premier Christy Clark responded to the report by telling all political staff and ministers not to delete their emails.

Denham sent her report to the RCMP and a special prosecutor was appointed to give police legal advice and decide whether charges should be laid.

Gretes was suspended with pay last May and Transportation Minister Todd Stone said his resignation was accepted when the privacy commissioner's report was released in October.

He is scheduled to appear in provincial court in Victoria on April 20. If the case proceeds to trial, it will be heard by a judge alone.

The penalty for the charge is a fine of up to $5,000.