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What did those 53,000 city emails contain mistakenly leaked to a Kitchener lawyer?

By Gerry Barker

April 19, 2017

The extreme fallout of the biggest leak of alleged confidential information in the city’s history still hangs in the closet far from public exposure. It remains a further example of protectionism, privacy and misuse of privilege.

In early February, the lawyer representing Bruce Poole, the former Chief Building Inspector, requested the city to send him the pertinent emails concerning Mr. Poole’s 2015 dismissal without cause.

This was a normal request during the pre-trial examination known as discovery of the facts. In this case, Mr. Poole was suing the city for wrongful dismissal after 30 years of service, 20 of those years as Chief Building Inspector. He was seeking $1 million in his statement of claim.

The circumstances of his firing were founded on his concern that the city was conducting building and construction projects without taking out a building permit as required by law. He approached senior management and said he would have to fine the city for its failure to obtain building permits on some 50 ongoing projects.

It is unclear at this time who was involved in the decision to fire Poole but this much is known: It had to be approved by Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, the senior public employee in charge of the administration. Of course, Ms. Pappert is no longer employed by the city leaving May 26, 2016, almost a year after firing Mr. Poole

To the astonishment of Poole’s lawyer, the disk drive included hundreds of files containing information that had nothing to do with Mr. Poole’s case. But some of the file information was juicy, containing extremely personal email exchanges involving performance reviews, staff ratings and allegedly, content that did not belong on city servers or files.

The great favour that Bruce Poole gave to his fellow citizens

While it is not clear of the time frames of the collection, there was immediate reaction by the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, demanding the return of the drive. Tony Saxon of Guelph Today broke the story of the mega leak.

Mr. Poole’s lawyer was hesitant to return the drive for good reason. He has the drive; the city wanted it back and voila! He had leverage. In less than two weeks there was a settlement announcement between the city and Mr. Poole. No details have been released as a confidentially agreement was reached.

This event was a confluence of events. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, as the man overseeing the Information Technology department, was summarily dismissed. City Solicitor Donna Jaques resigned the day before the dismissal, to take another job.

Why was the senior city staff so determined to get that drive back? Why was Mr. Amorosi dismissed and not the General Manager of Information Technology, Blair Labelle? His department was responsible for sending the information to Mr. Poole’s lawyer.

Or, is that what happened? Was the material sent from some other area of the administration? This brings up the question, who else had access to the city servers?

If so, what was the motivation, aside from carelessness and stupidity or was it deliberate?

What possible information was on those files that caused the city to demand an immediate return?

The executive scramble to get the 53,000 files back

CAO Derrick Thomson said the people named in the files were informed and assured their privacy would be protected. Did that include Mr. Amorosi who, the next day after firing him, Mr. Thomson praised him of his great contribution to the city during his nine years of employment?

What was the CAO talking about? Fire his senior deputy then describe the man’s great contributions to the city?

More important from the citizen’s point of view facing unanswered questions, what are the details regarding Mr. Amorosi’s sudden dismissal? He was a key senior manager of the administration. As head of Corporate Services, he was responsible for five departments including Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Special projects, and Court Services.

Mr. Saxon’s story gave a few examples of the content of those leaked emails. But the scope and implications affecting employees and citizens, was stuffed ASAP back in the bowels of the city IT servers, far beyond public scrutiny.

One interesting tidbit revealed was that former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, used his city computer to conduct personal banking. As a senior manager, was this practice of using a city computer for personal business widespread across the more than 2,100 staff? Again how many city computers have access to the servers?

What was the status of firewalls to prevent access to certain files in the server deemed by executives as confidential? Mr. Horsman left the city in August 2015.

Is it possible that that leak was deliberate? Are there copies of those 53,000 files floating around?

Who in hell is Ashley Madison?

Here’s an event to ponder. You will recall a few years ago there was a story published in the public prints about a certain website called Ashley Madison. It was known as a market place for hookups for men and women, married or otherwise, seeking a relationship.

The story broke that the Ashley Madison website was a meet market for anyone who was interested in illicit sexual relations and it had a huge following around the globe.

The reports stated that Ashley Madison statistics revealed a high volume of traffic on this site in the Guelph area. Indeed, the story reported a certain postal code in Guelph contained the highest number of Ashley Madison hits or views. Guelph city hall was in that postal code.

Let’s be clear, at this time there is no evidence linking the Ashley Madison website to city personnel, present or former.

The original Ashley Madison was aimed at those individuals interested in infidelity relationships with no questions asked. The site cloaked their identities from any public exposure. The original Ashley Madison operation went off the radar to be replaced by new owners who now claim they have 52 million members across the globe.

Here’s copy from the “new” Ashley Madison website

“Ashley Madison today is about so much more than infidelity, it’s about all kinds of adult dating. In fact, a large number of our millions of members around the globe are singles drawn to the site because they want the kind of discretion Ashley Madison has been synonymous with for over a decade. Many members are in fulfilling relationships and need a safe place to explore polyamory together. Others still are looking for same-sex relationships but want to keep it separate from their personal and professional networks. Of course, there are still men and women seeking an affair on Ashley Madison, but we don’t let that define us and neither should you. Ashley Madison is the best place to find real, discreet relationships with open-minded adults. “

Under the previous Ashley Madison management, it appears the emphasis was on accommodating infidelity relationships that appears to have an attraction in that Guelph postal code. So, did that disk sent to Mr. Poole’s lawyer contain some of those email exchanges of city employees seeking a break from sexual boredom? We’ll probably never know but the impact of the content of those leaked files, created enough initial panic by senior staff to get those files back to mitigate further public exposure.

In my opinion, this data leak is a classic example of the city’s administrative culture that has consistently failed to meet its fiduciary responsibilities. This is a ten-year culture promulgated by senior management and elected officials who condone the policies of secrecy, social experimentation that has cost citizens millions and acute manipulation of the public trust.

As citizens we must seriously take charge of our corporation and change this sickening culture that benefits the few and afflicts the many.

When the core of the apple is rotten, you toss it into the garbage.

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