Last fall we wrote about the extraordinary lengths the B.C. government was taking to keep even the most basic details of its Civil Forfeiture Office from the public.
That secrecy included refusing to provide the names of employees, their job titles or even an organizational chart of the pubic government office.
At the time, the government said the secrecy was necessary because of security advice provided by ministry and police security experts.
But the government could not provide any of those records, when the Times Colonist filed a Freedom of Information request, asking for any documents relating to security from 2006 to present.
Now the government says those security consultations, containing extremely important advice on employee security, were never put down on paper in any formal manner. They were done off the books, and there's no record of what was said. Apparently, all that advice was verbal.
"The CFO has conducted ongoing consultations with corporate security experts since the office's inception," assistant deputy minister Lynda Cavanaugh said in a statement.
"And while these did not always result in a formal audit, we can assure you that these consultations have addressed the overall security of the CFO and its personnel as well as concerns regarding individual cases."
"The experts' advice continues to be that the CFO and its employees should maintain a low profile to avoid being targeted," Cavanaugh added.
The government plans to continue this paper-less and record-less method of security assessments into the future as well.
"Going forward, given the evolution of the civil forfeiture program and its files, most security-related consultations of a minor nature will likely continue to be done outside of set, formal reports," wrote Cavanaugh.
The TC's FOI did result in one document, a "Security and Safety Assessment" by government's corporate security office, labeled "confidential." It's heavily redacted, but includes items on earthquake and disaster prepardness for the CFO office. Cavanaugh said the report is actually an initial security assessment for the CFO's new office space, which it moved into in the spring of 2011.
Even that document was difficult to drag out of government. After it was received by the newspaper, the TC filed a complaint that the date of the assessment report had been redacted under a section of the law that declares secret anything which could be harmful to law enforcement. The government reconsidered and released the date, which was Feb. 20, 2012.
The CFO isn't alone in conducting its business verbally without records for the public to review.
Last October, Premier Christy Clark faced questions about why an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct by her then chief of staff Ken Boessenkool resulted in not a single record. The response was that the investigation had been done verbally.
Here is the 2012 office security assessment obtained by FOI.