10 December 2019

Transitory Records #nlpoli

In dealing with one aspect of the business of getting Carla Foote from Executive Council to The Rooms,  deputy minster Ted Lomond suggested to The Rooms CEO that he delete the email in which Lomond had forwarded a proposed draft of a letter.

cbc.ca/nl ran a story on it Monday based on the report from the Citizen's Representative into allegations against Lomond's minister, Chris Mitchelmore.  The CBC story included this quote:
"I talked to Mr. Brinton a number of times and I said to him that in light of everything that is happening, I would suggest you delete your transitory records," Lomond told the Office of the Citizens' Representative. 
Brinton said he knew their conversation would be subject to requests under the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act [ATIPPA], and said he wanted to make sure his emails were in order.
"You knew this was going to get ATIPP'd," he told the citizen's rep. "So I would like to have my records neat and tidy, final versions lined up."
Transitory records are not described in ATIPPA.  They are covered in the law that governs how government maintains its records.  It's called the Management of Information Act. Anyone submitting requests for government documents under ATIPPA should know both pieces of legislation inside out.  For those who are interested,  the Office of the Chief Information Officer has a tidy little description of "transitory records".

Here's the definition:
 "transitory record" means a government record of temporary usefulness in any format or medium having no ongoing value beyond an immediate and minor transaction or the preparation of a subsequent record.
Section 5.4 of the MIA says that "transitory records may be disposed of when they are no longer of value, and shall only be disposed of through means which render them unreadable, including secure shredding or in the case of electronic records, secure electronic erasure."

The OCIO document days that a transitory record would include the draft versions of records the signed version of which has been retained as well as the electronic versions used to transmit the draft from one person to another.

As much as the historian in your humble e-scribbler thinks this is a generally bad idea, the rules in place would permit the deletion of the draft letter and the transmittal email as transitory documents.  The signed version of the letter, as sent, should be on file as the permanent record.  Only the final version would matter under government records management rules that have been in place for almost 15 years.  As it turned out,  the individuals who deleted the emails admitted to doing so so the notion they were trying to cover something up seems a bit of a stretch.

That's a crucial piece of information missing from the CBC story, which maintained the focus on Chris Mitchelmore even though - as SRBP noted on Monday and CBC's John Gushue reported on Saturday - Dwight Ball is the one responsible for appointments to the senior public service and is responsible for the Foote move.  The CBC story also left that key detail about Ball out... again.


Correction to name of Management of Information Act (incorrectly given as Records Management Act)