View Royal Coun. Ron Mattson is suing the province of British Columbia and Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid for wrongful dismissal and defamation in response to his firing from the ministry of health in September.
Mattson, was first suspended without pay on July 17, then fired by the ministry for allegedly passing confidential data to a University of Victoria researcher, an allegation Mattson denies.
A claim submitted by Mattson’s lawyer, Christopher Siver, states Mattson never had the authority to access ministry data in the first place. It states all he did was submit an application to have the researcher added as an approved user of a database related to a contract between the university and the government.
“No personal data was ever delivered by Mr. Mattson to any person,” states the claim.
The dismissal came after 28 years working for the province. Mattson has also served as a city councillor for 16 years.
“I was devastated when I was suspended,” Mattson said in a statement. “I loved my job, and was one of those fortunate individuals who looked forward to going to work each day. I was shocked and humiliated when I was escorted out of the building after my suspension.”
In a confidential letter from the ministry to Mattson, Graham Whitmarsh, deputy minister, told Mattson his “actions demonstrate a careless disregard of your fiduciary obligation to protect the highly confidential and sensitive data that is entrusted to the ministry’s care.”
As a result of his dismissal, Mattson, 59, said he has been forced to retire and his income cut in half. He claims his reputation has “been destroyed” and his “ability to fulfill duties as an elected official is uncertain.”
“I did nothing wrong and expected to be fully exonerated,” Mattson said. “I still do not know the real reason I was fired, and I remain shocked and humiliated.”
A press release from the ministry in September stated it had “asked the RCMP to investigate inappropriate conduct, contracting and data-management.” This statement is described in Mattson’s civil claim as suggesting Mattson engaged in criminal conduct, something he claims is “false and defamatory.”
Mattson said he asked the province and MacDiarmid on two occasions, as recently as Nov. 16, to apologize for the statements. He said he has received no apology.
A statement from the ministry states it will not make public comments related to “specific personnel information.”
“We have never publicly disclosed individuals’ names in the media, nor do we intend to. As is the case with any court action, we will defend it through the legal process.”
Mattson’s allegations haven’t been proven in court. MacDairmid and the Ministry of Health had not filed statements of defence by News Gazette deadline.
The ministry’s internal investigation into the alleged privacy breach is ongoing.
Six employees were fired and another suspended in relation to the alleged breach of privacy. The ministry investigation began in May after an anonymous tip to B.C. Auditor General John Doyle’s office. Two research contracts with UVic and the University of British Columbia, worth about $4 million, were suspended as a result of the allegations.