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Fired researcher’s sister seeks answers in report due today

The sister of Roderick MacIsaac, who killed himself before the province apologized for firing him and six other Health Ministry researchers in 2012, is examining all options in an attempt to get answers.
Rod MacIsaac.jpg
Roderick MacIsaac.

The sister of Roderick MacIsaac, who killed himself before the province apologized for firing him and six other Health Ministry researchers in 2012, is examining all options in an attempt to get answers.

Linda Kayfish and her husband, Doug Kayfish, don’t think an independent review by Victoria lawyer Marcia McNeil, due for release today, will yield the information they want.

McNeil looked at the period from March 2012, when allegations of data breaches in the Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical branch were made, to when the terminations took place in the fall. She did not have the authority to compel witnesses to provide information.

McNeil’s review is designed to lead to better public service responses to allegations of employee misconduct, said a Finance Ministry spokesman.

Linda Kayfish said she will explore all avenues to get answers unless the government calls for an independent investigation under the Public Inquiry Act or the office of B.C.’s auditor general does an audit. “How can you not want to answer those allegations they put to my brother?”

MacIsaac, a University of Victoria PhD student, was interviewed by government investigators on Aug. 28, 2012, and suspended. He was fired Sept. 6. He lost his job three days before his co-op work term was to end.

Kayfish provided to the Times Colonist a copy of the dismissal letter her brother received on Sept. 6, 2012, as well as his rebuttal one week later. Copies were also given to McNeil.

In the dismissal letter, the government said that MacIsaac:

• Inappropriately accessed data for his PhD.

• Inappropriately released data to a ministry contractor whose access was frozen.

• Refused to sign a declaration of having no knowledge of data stored outside the ministry.

• Attempted to manipulate the investigative process by providing misleading and incomplete information.

• Jeopardized the privacy of British Columbians and the reputation of the ministry.

In his response, MacIsaac described the first three allegations as blatantly untrue, misinformed or inconsistent, and cited supervisory names, approvals, documentation and file numbers as proof.

The remainder, he notes, are too subjective and unsupported by fact to be reasonably substantiated or argued.

In an email to a colleague, MacIsaac refers to “pretty wild inconsistencies” and convoluted aerobics of logic used to make allegations.

MacIsaac was working on a review of the province’s smoking-cessation program, which gives drugs and nicotine patches or gum to people trying to quit smoking. He was also planning to do his dissertation on the same.

“I had ministry authorization to work on the Smoking Cessation Evaluation and on my PhD. I had university authorization to use ministry data. I did not receive notification from [Data Access Requests] that [contractor] Bill Warburton’s data access had been frozen,” he said in his Sept. 13, 2012, rebuttal letter.

Doug Kayfish said he does not believe due diligence took place after MacIsaac was interviewed.

“There simply could not have been enough time spent reviewing and verifying facts before Rod was fired so callously. The responses seem never to even have been considered,” he said.

In another instance, “Roderick needed information and so he asked the IT people with access to the right [data] to do it for him which included a union co-worker,” Doug Kayfish said.

Deputy health minister Stephen Brown later concluded that “breaches of policy” had occurred in most cases, but some of the terminations were unwarranted or excessive.

Three wrongful-dismissal cases and three union grievances, including that of MacIsaac, have been settled. Two remain before the courts.

Even Graham Whitmarsh, the man who signed the letters of termination, is looking for answers.

“I’ve obviously heard a lot more since I left about what people think happened and didn’t happen, and I would like clarity as much as anybody else,” Whitmarsh said.

Whitmarsh said he would participate in a “genuinely thorough, substantive and independent review by the auditor general.”

The B.C. Auditor General’s office reiterated this week that it continues to review the option of an audit.

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