A police investigation into a complaint from Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell that municipal workers installed spyware on his computer, leading him to work out of the office with a private email account, has found no wrongdoing.
Mr. Atwell held a news conference on Monday where he alleged, among other things, that software had been secretly installed on his computer to track his activities. "I have not felt secure and comfortable working from the mayor's office," he told reporters.
However a report released Tuesday night by municipal council suggests the mayor, who has had a career in the information technology industry, was mistaken. What he described as "spyware" was in fact security software that was installed on a number of computers at the recommendation of an audit that was conducted early last year.
Saanich police told council there are no grounds for criminal charges. "The software was installed to manage the integrity of the computer system and protect the computer system against any illegal attack. Furthermore, since the software was installed on municipally-owned computers to be used in the workplace, there was no reasonable expectation of privacy by employees."
Mr. Atwell, who was elected in November, has said he believes the Saanich police are in a conflict of interest and complained that he has been pulled over in traffic stops by police four times since he began his mayoralty campaign. He also wants the police complaint commissioner to look into the conduct of the police department after an altercation at the home of a campaign worker in December, which led him to call 9-1-1, was leaked to the media.
The mayor held the news conference to admit that he had initially lied to media outlets when asked about the 9-1-1 incident in a bid to cover up the fact that he was having an extramarital affair.
In his short tenure as mayor, Mr. Atwell has already been criticized by council members for his decision to turf a senior bureaucrat, costing taxpayers more than $475,000 in severance payments. Now, he is once again at odds with his municipal council. "Council is confident in the conduct of its Information Technology Division and the steps they take on an ongoing basis to protect the integrity of District of Saanich information and resources," the statement from council said.