The financial cost of a Lantzville councillor’s misplaced USB key containing in-camera information will eventually be revealed.
During Lantzville council meeting on Monday, councillors voted 4-2 in favour of having staff create a report that documents the amount of staff hours and legal fees spent as a result of Coun. John Coulson misplacing a USB key containing in-camera information.
Coulson informed the district last month that he could not find a USB key containing in-camera meeting minutes going as far back as April 2014. A few days later, Coulson told the News Bulletin he had found the memory drive, as it had been in his bag the whole time.
The district had issued a press release advising residents of the matter, that an investigation was underway and that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been notified.
During this past Monday’s meeting, councillors debated the motion to have staff prepare a report detailing time spent on the issue and how much money it has cost the district in legal fees.
Coun. Will Geselbracht, who made the motion, said a lot of time has been spent dealing with the issue. He said while it is his understanding that Coulson has since deleted all the information on the memory drive, the public has a right to know how much his actions will cost them.
“The district runs a very large legal responsibility and I think we owe it to the public to put the numbers down that this has cost us,” he said.
Trudy Coates, the district’s director of corporate administration, told councillors that staff are still dealing with the aftermath of Coulson’s incident.
“The process isn’t finished for us. We will still have to work with OIPC to bring forward a policy and to satisfy them,” she said.
In response to a question from Coun. Dot Neary about the amount of time it would take to put together a report, Coates said it could realistically be completed by September.
Coun. Denise Haime praised Coulson for taking the correct steps in reporting the missing USB key and later described the actions of council as a vengeful “witch hunt” against him because there is an election on the horizon.
“From the way I see it, congratulations to Coun. Coulson for taking that step and following the process,” Haime said. “He did exactly what he’s required to do by law and so now because he’s done that, all we are doing here is setting up people to say, ‘don’t tell anybody if you’ve lost some sensitive information.’”
Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime also called Geselbracht’s motion a campaign to “publicly discredit” Coulson.
“If it had been a motion in respect to policy and procedure in the future, I get that, but that is not what this is in my opinion,” he said.
Coun. Mark Swain said he’s been reading comments about the subject on social media and believes residents do want to know the true cost.
Both Haimes voted against the motion. Coulson declared conflict and was not present during the discussion.