Former premier Dalton McGuinty's chief of staff and his deputy together compiled a list of senior Liberal staffers whose computer records would be purged – all of whom were involved in discussions surrounding the controversial cancellation of two power plants, police say.
Newly released court documents prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police as part of their investigation into David Livingston, Mr. McGuinty's last chief of staff, allege that deputy chief Laura Miller also played a key role in the deletion of government records.
Police believe Mr. Livingston committed a criminal breach of trust by bringing in a non-government IT expert, Ms. Miller's husband, Peter Faist, to "wipe clean" computer hard drives in the premier's office. Mr. Livingston's lawyer has said his client did nothing wrong.
Officers are seeking a warrant to search Mr. Livingston's government-issued BlackBerry, which Detective-Constable André Duval says he believes will provide evidence relating to Mr. Livingston's communications and "additional potential suspects." No charges have been laid and none of the accusations have been tested in court.
In an e-mail, Mr. Livingston asked Ms. Miller to have her husband delete files on both of their computer hard drives as well as those of four other senior staffers, the documents show. In her e-mail response, Ms. Miller added several more names to the list: three communications staff members in the premier's office as well as regional staff.
The individuals named by Mr. Livingston and Ms. Miller, police allege, were all involved in discussions around the Liberals' costly decision to scrap the gas-plant projects. The provincial auditor put the cancellation tab at $1.1-billion.
"I believe that this exchange of e-mails confirmed that David Livingston and Laura Miller were the persons responsible for overseeing the task of wiping out the hard drives of the premier's office," Det. Constable Duval alleges.
Ms. Miller, who is now executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party, did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.
The document says Mr. Livingston also avoided leaving public records of many of his discussions by double deleting e-mails and communicating by BlackBerry Messenger. He decided which e-mail would be kept in his inbox as a government record and which one would be "double deleted" – erased from both the inbox and the server – effectively ensuring it would not be recovered, the documents allege.
Police outline various e-mail exchanges in which Mr. McGuinty's staff discussed deleting e-mails, wiping hard drives or keeping conversations about contentious political issues offline, allegedly to avoid leaving a written record.
One one occasion, staffer Beckie Codd-Downey wrote: "Talked to Dave. Will delete my copies." Neala Barton, Mr. McGuinty's spokeswoman, replied: "All offline now." Ms. Codd-Downey told The Globe Sunday that this conversation concerned a Liberal Party event in Thunder Bay, and "should not have been conducted on government email." She said she believed the "Dave" referred to was Dave Gene, another McGuinty staffer.
In a different exchange, Wendy McCann, Mr. McGuinty's communications director, asked: "Is Pete or someone else wiping our computer hard drives?" After Mr. Livingston and Ms. Miller both replied in the affirmative, Ms. McCann responded: "Great."
Mr. Faist, who is co-operating with investigators, told police he was instructed by Ms. Miller to "wipe off personal data" on about 20 computers in the premier's office. Between Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, 2013, he erased 632,118 files, accounting for 13 per cent of all the data on the 20 hard drives, the documents allege. More than half of the files on Mr. Livingston's hard drive were deleted.
Mr. Faist also turned over e-mails between him and Ms. Miller and other staffers that investigators had not found when searching government computers. Many of these e-mails provided "crucial information" to police, the documents say, including one saying Mr. Livingston's executive assistant provided Mr. Faist with access to the premier's office.
Mr. Faist initially tried to erase documents on Ms. Miller's hard drive on Jan. 24, 2013, the documents allege. But without a special administrative password, he was unable to install software to wipe the hard drive.
The next day, Mr. Livingston asked government IT staff for the administrative access, the documents say. Civil servants were wary about granting this access.
Ms. Miller sent two e-mails to Mr. Livingston that same day, asking if he had obtained the password. "Not yet," he replied.
Eventually David Nicholl, the government's head of IT, arranged for administrative access to be granted to Mr. Livingston's assistant. Mr. Faist told police he used that account to log in to more than 20 computers to wipe the hard drives.