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P.E.I. civil servant at centre of government records probe says he did not delete emails

Sidney MacEwen (right) speaking during a standing committee meeting on Wednesday. MacEwen said he believes it is “frustrating” for the public to hear that Mix’ e-mails cannot be found
Sidney MacEwen (right) speaking during a standing committee meeting on Wednesday. MacEwen said he believes it is “frustrating” for the public to hear that Mix’ e-mails cannot be found - Stu Neatby/The Guardian

Innovation P.E.I. senior director was told mobile phone upgrade could have caused two years of messages, including some related to e-gaming, to go missing

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A senior public employee at the centre of an examination of what led to the disappearance of almost two years of emails says he did not do anything to destroy government records.

Brad Mix, a senior director with Innovation P.E.I., spoke before the standing committee on government records retention on Wednesday. The special standing committee was struck last spring following a report by the Information and Privacy Commissioner that found that the provincial government destroyed public records in contravention of the Archives and Records Act.

The records in question were government emails from Mix from June 2010 to April 2012. The report was the result of an investigation after the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture failed to produce the records in response to a Freedom of Information request. The request was made by two individuals who sought information about Mix’s involvement in the e-gaming initiative, an effort by the Robert Ghiz government to establish P.E.I. as a regulatory centre for online gambling.

Speaking before the committee, Mix emphatically denied deleting the emails.

“I did not do anything to destroy any of my email archives. I did not do anything knowingly to cause the gap that exists in my email archives,” Mix said. “I really wish I had all my emails.”

Brad Mix, a senior director with Innovation P.E.I., is shown before a standing committee on Wednesday. Mix, whose government emails were the subject of a report by the privacy commissioner, said he did not know why his emails could not be found. - Stu Neatby/The Guardian
Brad Mix, a senior director with Innovation P.E.I., is shown before a standing committee on Wednesday. Mix, whose government emails were the subject of a report by the privacy commissioner, said he did not know why his emails could not be found. - Stu Neatby/The Guardian

Mix told the committee that he first noticed the emails were missing in his government GroupWise account in March 2015 after he found he could not obtain an email he had sent in 2011.

After looking into his email archive, Mix said he contacted P.E.I.’s Information Technology and Shared Services about the missing records. Mix said he was told the emails from June 2010 to April 2012 could not be found in his inbox or in his sent folder.

Mix then said he then sent email messages to the provincial department of risk management.

He said the explanations offered by both ITSS was that the emails could have been lost in a mobile phone upgrade.

“Several people who had Blackberry upgrades experienced gaps in their email accounts," Mix told the committee, recounting what ITSS had told him.

"It was also explained to me through email that GroupWise had stability and interface issues, and that not all email accounts were guaranteed to be complete."

Mix also said he was “not a main player” in the e-gaming initiative from 2009 to 2012. He did not go into details about the role he played in a memorandum of understanding signed at the time between Innovation P.E.I. and CMT Inc., related to establishing a financial services centre. The MOU is the subject of an ongoing legal dispute.

Mix also said he has been transparent and reported the missing emails to ITSS when he determined he could not obtain them.

In September, John Brennan, director of business infrastructure for ITSS told the committee the missing emails would have to have been either deleted or archived on a non-government server.

Progressive Conservative MLA Sidney MacEwen noted that ITSS had said a mobile phone upgrade could not have been the reason for the missing emails.

“Is there anything you would like to refute from that presentation?" MacEwen asked Mix.

“I'm not going to question the two presenters from ITSS. I know the reasons that I was given in 2015," Mix said.

"They made sense to me at the time and they make sense to me now."

Mix also said the only other person with access to his emails was an admin assistant, who he trusted.

Green Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker asked Mix about statements made by ITSS staff in September indicating that e-mails would have had to have been deleted. - Stu Neatby/The Guardian
Green Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker asked Mix about statements made by ITSS staff in September indicating that e-mails would have had to have been deleted. - Stu Neatby/The Guardian

In an interview, Green Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker also noted the discrepancy between Mix and Brennan. He said he was convinced Mix was not the individual who deleted the emails but said Brennan’s statements were “very compelling.”

"We're left with very few other options," Bevan-Baker said.

"I'm beginning to feel more and more that we'll probably never find out who actually deleted those emails."

Stu Neatby is the political reporter for The Guardian.

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