Regional Council to look at strengthening information security following confidential info leak

CKTB - NEWS - Regional Council April 29, 2021

Niagara Regional Council will look at strengthening information security after the Integrity Commissioner recommended against pursuing an investigation into a specific confidential leak.

During a special meeting of Regional Council yesterday, Integrity Commissioner Edward McDemott said he does not have the authority to investigate how a whistleblower report on the region's organic waste contract was leaked.

He said if council wants to delve into the issue, they could get an Ombudsperson to look into it, but cautioned that it could be a costly and lengthy process given how many people were involved in the report. "What do you think a process like this is going to cost? And you have no control over it once it starts, once you're into a public inquiry, hearings. It's the worst thing you want to be in. And the cost will be untold."

McDermott said around 40 people had access to the information that were leaked.

"There has to be a potential reward at the end of the day to make the risk of embarking on an undertaking like this worthwhile taking," he explained. " And in my view, in the basis of what we have before us in this particular situation, the cost, the risk, the potentiality of getting lucky and finding out who did it are all quite remote."

Instead, he recommended forming a task force of senior members of staff, councillors, and an expert technical facilitator to look at improving security to prevent document leaks in the first place. "I think if you really want to consider getting into this, and I think you should, I think you should focus on getting a plan to tighten up your own security and to make it less likely that these events will occur in the future so that you can get on with doing things that are in the interest of the municipality and must be kept on a confidential basis."

Ultimately council voted to have the Corporate Services Committee review the Code of Conduct and sent a copy to all council members to sign on a semi-annual basis as a reminder of their confidentiality obligations.

A task force will also be created to make improvements to confidential information security, although Councillor Kevin Gibson noted he believes many of the leaks are done verbally and although he was in favour of increasing security, he did not believe it would really control the issue.