Skip to content

City admits it erred in handing over confidential emails to man suing them

Thousands of email items from former top executive's account were handed over in error
20160208 City CAO Albert Horsman Profile KA
Al Horsman.

The City of Guelph admits it made a mistake when it handed over 50,000 items from a former manager’s email account to a ex-city staffer who is suing them.

City Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson issued a statement Friday afternoon after news of the incident broke Friday morning.

“I apologize for this error. It should not have happened, and we are conducting a review to ensure there is additional due diligence in cases where private information is involved,” Thomson’s statement said.

The CAO said the emails were “inadvertently” given to the legal counsel of Bruce Poole, the city’s former chief building official who has filed a $1 million wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the city.

Thomson said the city is attempting to have the USB stick that contained the items returned.

The emails, attachments and calendar entries were taken from the city email account of former chief financial officer and Deputy CAO Al Horsman, who is now the CAO of Sault Ste. Marie.

They included everything from confidential legal discussions to personal emails discussing health and marital issues.

“The City of Guelph was notified that files containing confidential information were inadvertently provided to the legal counsel of an individual with whom the City is in litigation,” said Thomson’s official statement.

“As required by the legal discovery process, the City transferred files to the claimant’s legal counsel that were relevant to the litigation. However, the electronic media used to deliver these files also inadvertently included files not relevant to this litigation that had been deleted, but not permanently erased.

“Immediately upon discovering the error, the City’s external legal counsel contacted the recipient’s legal counsel and asked them to return the information and expunge reference to the information in the recipient’s affidavit. These files have not yet been returned and we continue to pursue recovery of this information. If necessary, the City intends to seek a Court order and pursue all remedies available to it.”

The statement did not say when the city became aware of the mistake.

Poole referenced 94 of the subject matters in the information he was given in a recent motion filed in Ontario Superior Court, although the court filing did not include details of the emails.

Many were listed as “confidential” or “private” and were retrieved from the deleted folder of Horsman’s work email.