Chestermere inadvertently releases private resident info


The report the mayor introduced contained emails and names of residents who had communicated with three councillors

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The embattled Metropolis of Chestermere is reporting itself — and probably one in every of its residents — to Alberta’s privateness commissioner after a report shared by the mayor final week inadvertently uncovered the private info of some residents.

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Mayor Jeff Colvin made an hour-long presentation at a Sept. 27 council assembly, sharing dozens of emails and different communications belonging to councillors Shannon Dean, Ritesh Narayan and Sandy Johal-Watt — whose complaints to the Division of Municipal Affairs triggered a uncommon provincial inquiry into town’s governance earlier this yr.

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Within the 55-page report, the mayor pointed to correspondence the three councillors had with residents, metropolis employees and authorities officers — and a Postmedia article the place Narayan accused town of conducting a “witch hunt” towards him — as proof within the metropolis’s recently-launched probe of the councillors’ greater than 100 alleged violations of town’s code of conduct.

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A day after that assembly, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver put in an “official administrator” on the metropolis, pointing to “rising dysfunction” among the many metropolis’s elected officers as the explanation for that transfer. The provincially appointed referee has the ability to quash any council resolutions or bylaws as much as a month after they’re handed.

The report the mayor introduced — initially mentioned in a closed-door assembly earlier than council voted to unseal it for public presentation the identical afternoon — contained emails and names of residents who had communicated with the three councillors, in addition to the private telephone numbers of these councillors.

“That may be a violation of their private info, as mundane as many individuals contemplate an individual’s title to be,” Sharon Polsky, president of the Privateness and Entry Council of Canada, informed Postmedia. “There may be important and severe unintended penalties if my title is revealed and I didn’t need it to be revealed.”

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Metropolis officers mentioned they are going to edit the video of the assembly earlier than it’s printed on-line to make sure it adheres to privateness laws, and intend to self-report to the Workplace of the Info and Privateness Commissioner (OIPC) relating to the issues with the presentation.

“Inadvertently, there have been public telephone numbers on the presentation, and it’s our obligation to the general public for privateness functions to edit that video,” mentioned metropolis director Kim Wallace throughout a Tuesday council assembly.

The report was later uploaded to town’s web site and appeared to have been additional redacted; nevertheless, when opened in some PDF-editing functions, the containers masking the delicate info may very well be moved, additional exposing emails and names of residents and different personal residents. The town later changed the doc on-line, correcting the error that made the redactions detachable.

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‘Obligated’ to report resident who alerted metropolis: mayor

On Monday, Chestermere resident Matt Sywenky despatched an e mail — a duplicate of which he shared with Postmedia — together with screenshots of the exposable private info current within the report, to Colvin, metropolis councillors and Municipal Affairs officers, alerting them that the redacted contents had been nonetheless accessible. Sywenky additionally included the residents and companies whose contact info may very well be seen within the doc as recipients of the e-mail, stating that they “deserve to be told as quickly as attainable.”

“These are residents, a few of whom are my private pals, and companies that function in our neighborhood. None of them need to be publicly dragged into this vindictive show of ‘justice,’ ” Sywenky wrote within the e mail.

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An email from Chestermere resident Matt Sywenky to Mayor Jeff Colvin on Oct. 3.
An e mail from Chestermere resident Matt Sywenky to Mayor Jeff Colvin on Oct. 3. Picture by Matt Sywenky

In a response to that e mail, Colvin mentioned Sywenky had “deliberately disclosed” personal info and mentioned town would additionally report his correspondence to the OIPC.

“The right plan of action would have been to inform ONLY town of any issues,” wrote the mayor. “You may have taken extraordinary measures to uncover and disclose personal info to the entire public. I’d suggest that you just stop and desist. Now that we’re conscious of your actions which can be a breach of privateness and the intentional nature, now we have an obligation to report this infraction to the Privateness Fee.”

An email sent from Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin to resident Matt Sywenky on Oct. 3.
An e mail despatched from Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin to resident Matt Sywenky on Oct. 3. Picture by Matt Sywenky

Sywenky informed Postmedia he felt the language Colvin used was “unprofessional” for a mayor chatting with one in every of his constituents.

“It made me very upset that someone who was elected to symbolize my metropolis would flip one thing round on this and never take possession of it, however as a substitute, make accusations towards the resident that introduced it to their consideration,” Sywenky mentioned.

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“(Residents) have each proper to have issues, and each proper to talk to their elected officers and be heard . . . residents are those which can be struggling for this ludicrous show of justice to try to justify why (Colvin is) dragging these councillors over the coals.”

Grace McKenna was amongst these whose e mail and title was revealed within the mayor’s report, and was a recipient of Sywenky’s e mail and the mayor’s response.

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“(The mayor) successfully accused a resident of creating issues worse by notifying me {that a} metropolis report had violated my privateness,” she mentioned.

McKenna mentioned she’s additionally confused as to why her message to Johal-Watt from practically a yr in the past was included for instance of a possible code of conduct breach by the councillor.

“It was a easy message. I simply mentioned, ‘hey, I actually respect that you just’ve been asking exhausting questions and pushing for extra due diligence earlier than voting on a movement that was earlier than council at the moment,’ ” she mentioned of the e-mail she despatched final November.

The mayor’s report exhibits Johal-Watt forwarded that message to Dean and Narayan, whom McKenna mentioned she additionally counseled within the e mail. Colvin cited it for instance of Johal-Watt breaching code of conduct by neglecting to ship the message to the entire of council.

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“To me, it implied that I had written one thing nefarious and that (Johal-Watt) shouldn’t have shared it,” mentioned McKenna. “The exclusion of the physique content material, and the implication left by excluding it, to me felt deliberate and it made me query the validity of all the remainder of the proof, a lot of which can be cropped.”

The OIPC mentioned it could actually’t touch upon the mayor’s presentation as “this matter could find yourself earlier than our workplace for overview.” Neither the Metropolis of Chestermere nor Colvin responded to Postmedia’s interview requests.

McIver mentioned the administrator will function a “bridge” till the municipal inspection into Chestermere’s governance is finalized.

Twitter: @michaelrdrguez

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