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Insiders are disputing each other’s statements to investigators about decisions during Dalton McGuinty’s last days as premier. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Insiders are disputing each other’s statements to investigators about decisions during Dalton McGuinty’s last days as premier. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Power plants, police and the bureaucrat Add to ...

He is a bit player in the criminal investigation into the alleged destruction of government records in former premier Dalton McGuinty’s office.

Police documents say decisions by David Nicholl, recently appointed acting deputy minister of Government Services, helped facilitate a purge of records after the government cancelled two gas-fired power plants.

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Mr. Nicholl told police last year that bureaucrats agreed to give Mr. McGuinty’s former chief of staff the go-ahead to erase computer hard drives in the premier’s office. But the four other senior bureaucrats denied Mr. Nicholl’s version of events, according to the documents.

Mr. Nicholl declined to comment on Friday. He is not under investigation, according to the documents, but police interviewed him about the alleged incidents.

An Ottawa judge this week unsealed the documents, which have not been tested in court, after The Globe and Mail and other media fought for their release.

The documents describe events during Mr. McGuinty’s final days in office. The alleged plan by his chief of staff, David Livingston, to delete records shows an effort by the government to avoid accountability for the costly cancellation of the electricity plants, critics say.

Mr. Nicholl, the province’s corporate chief information officer, got involved in late January, 2013, when Mr. Livingston sought permission from senior bureaucrats to access all the computers in the premier’s office and “wipe clean” the hard drives, the documents allege.

Bureaucrats decided at a meeting on Jan. 30 to find out if anyone in the premier’s office already had access to the computers. Mr. Nicholl, who attended that meeting, told police everyone agreed to grant Mr. Livingston’s request, but others who were at the meeting denied this, the documents say.

Information technology managers told police that, the same day, Mr. Nicholl told them to set up the access for Mr. Livingston. Mr. Nicholl denied this, the documents allege, telling police, “That conversation was never held.”

No one, including cabinet secretary Peter Wallace, was aware Mr. Nicholl had gone to the IT managers, the documents allege.

Mr. Nicholl also told bureaucrats that seven employees in Mr. McGuinty’s office already had administrative access to computers. But he did not explain to them that he had requested more powerful access for Mr. Livingston that would allow him to alter and delete files on all the hard drives in the premier’s office, not just his own computer, the document alleges.

When Mr. Wallace learned that staff in the premier’s office already had the same access that he was told Mr. Livingston wanted, he determined it was redundant to further discuss Mr. Livingston’s request, the documents say. Mr. Wallace’s lawyer prepared a statement for Mr. Livingston, outlining his obligation to preserve government records.

On Jan. 31, Mr. Livingston asked Mr. Nicholl to give the special access to his executive assistant, Wendy Wai, whose knowledge of computers was limited, according to the documents.

“Mr. Nicholl gave me some sort of access, but I didn’t know anything about what to do with it,” Ms. Wai told police last summer.

Ms. Wai never used her special access, the documents allege. Police believe Mr. Livingston committed a criminal breach of trust by allowing a non-government IT professional, Peter Faist, to gain “unrestricted” access to documents on 24 hard drives in the premier’s office. Mr. Faist is described in the document as the “life partner” of Mr. Livingston’s deputy, Laura Miller.

Two employees in the premier’s office told police that, on Feb. 7, they saw Mr. Faist access their computers. Lauren Ramey told police last September she watched Mr. Faist type something on her computer. Afterward, she was unable to log on.

“I remember the screen was black,” Ms. Ramey told police. “I thought that was weird.”

Four days later, Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as Premier.

Follow on Twitter: @kahowlett

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