A woman fired from the Surrey constituency office of B.C. Citizens’ Services Minister Jinny Sims has accused Sims of keeping questionable office matters out of reach of freedom of information laws.
Managing emails and other information according to those laws is a key part of her duties as minister, and Sims says she has complied with her own ministry’s rules.
Opposition MLAs questioned Sims for a second day Tuesday about a letter from the former constituency assistant’s lawyer, alleging she was fired in February after questioning the way information was exchanged through text messages and Sims’ personal WhatsApp account.
The former office staffer, Kate Gillie, said via her May 12 lawyer’s letter that Sims conducted ministerial business on personal accounts, and that Gillie was fired in February, six weeks into the job, after Sims warned her repeatedly that “I need loyalty.”
B.C. Liberal critics released a second letter Tuesday that Gillie sent to Premier John Horgan’s office in March. Among other things, it describes people coming into the office, offering to pay to have assistance from federal and B.C. officials with their immigration applications.
The letter describes “attempts to bring foreign nationals who are on a security list into the country, in exchange for money,” B.C. Liberal Mike de Jong told the legislature.
Responding in question period Tuesday, Sims called the accusations “a load of nonsense.” She told reporters later that she was aware of the letter to the premier’s office since some time in March, including its claims about a constituent offering money if Sims could help with a lawsuit he was facing from the City of Surrey.
“Not true,” Sims said. “Individuals come into my office and say ‘we’ve got something stuck in the city,’ and all we do is direct them to the right person in the city, and no money was collected.”
Sims noted that Gillie worked in her office for only six weeks, and she would not speak about the reasons for terminating her because it is a human resources matter.
Attorney General David Eby told the legislature Tuesday he received a copy of the lawyer’s letter at his Vancouver constituency office late Sunday, noting it was addressed first to B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy.
“This is the proper office for this concern to be brought to,” Eby said. “For your information, [freedom of information legislation] does not apply to MLAs or the office of a person who is an MLA, because MLA offices are not public bodies.”
De Jong reminded the legislature that it was exactly a year ago that Sims and Horgan admitted Sims had not been following proper procedures in the “duty to document” provisions of record-keeping for cabinet ministers.