Computer expert accused of wiping hard drives denies hiding from Ontario police
By: Rob Ferguson Queen’s Park Bureau, Published on Thu Apr 03 2014
A computer expert with close Liberal ties who’s accused by police of wiping computer hard drives in the premier’s office is not “hiding” from authorities and “has done absolutely nothing wrong,” his lawyer says.
David Shiller — who represents Peter Faist, the boyfriend of ex-premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff, Laura Miller — on Wednesday broke days of silence on the Ontario Provincial Police claims.
The OPP allegations have not been tested in court and no charges have been laid.
“It is regrettable that many derogatory and defamatory things have been said about Peter in the last few days by people who know little or nothing about the facts. This will come out clearly at the end of the day,” Shiller said on behalf of Faist in a statement to the Star.
It followed a threat from opposition MPPs for a rare Speaker’s warrant forcing Faist to testify before the legislature’s justice committee, which is probing the deletion of politically sensitive documents in the $1.1-billion scandal over gas-fired power plants scrapped before the 2011 election.
Faist, whose contract to provide computer services to the Ontario Liberal Party was abruptly cancelled on Sunday, will consider testifying and has not been ducking attempts to reach him, Shiller said.
A letter of invitation sent via courier by the justice committee clerk was to a Toronto condo where Faist no longer resides and where telephone service was cancelled, the lawyer added. He confirmed Star reports Faist has moved to British Columbia, where Miller is executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party. She has not been available for comment despite repeated attempts.
“This move was in the works for the last six months,” Shiller said. “The suggestion that Peter is hiding from police or the Standing Committee on Justice Policy . . . is simply false.”
Shiller told the Star in an interview that Faist learned through the media earlier this week that the committee was seeking him and arranged to have the letter requesting him to testify sent to Shiller’s law office.
“It’s on Peter’s initiative that contact was made with the committee,” he told the Star. “Someone who’s in hiding doesn’t come out and make contact.”
As for the request to testify, “once we see what the committee wants, we’ll look at it,” Shiller added.
The OPP alleges in 111 pages of documents unsealed by the court last Thursday that Faist — who owns an IT company — wiped clean the computers of two staffers in McGuinty’s office just days before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power Feb. 11, 2013.
Police say the target of their investigation is former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston, whom they allege obtained a special password for the computers and is suspected of a breach of trust for having a non-government employee do the wiping. Breach of trust carries a maximum penalty of five years.
OPP have seized 24 hard drives, which are now undergoing forensic examination as part of their probe. Livingston, through his lawyer, has denied any wrongdoing.
Wynne was peppered with questions in the legislature Wednesday about what documents were deleted and why Faist’s Liberal contract was suddenly scrapped.
“The best person to answer a lot of these questions would be Peter Faist,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton).
“It is up to the Liberals, however, to come clean.”
Wynne, whose government has turned Faist’s invoices over to police and declined to comment on details, replied: “I really believe that we should let the investigation unfold.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath later asked Wynne: “If Mr. Faist was doing nothing wrong at all . . . why was he then suddenly fired this weekend?”
The police probe, which has interviewed a number of former McGuinty staff now working in the Wynne administration along with a wide range of civil servants, is being directed by Det.-Const. André Duval of the OPP anti-rackets squad.
He is slated to testify before the justice committee Thursday morning.
MacLeod said the Conservatives may call Wynne and McGuinty to testify before the committee once again given the new developments.
The Tory MPP also called on provincial corporate chief information officer David Nicholl to “step aside” over information in the OPP document alleging he approved the special computer password requested by Livingston despite concerns from cabinet secretary Peter Wallace.
Nicholl and Wallace did not reply to requests for comment. Nicholl, who had been serving in an interim role as acting deputy minister of government services, now resumes the information officer post three weeks earlier than planned under changes announced Wednesday.
Another senior civil servant, Greg Orencsak, takes over immediately as the deputy minister in Government Services. A Feb. 19 memo from Wallace had originally slated that move for April 22.
“The decision to have Mr. Orencsak start a few weeks early was made yesterday and confirmed by cabinet today,” a cabinet office spokesperson said Wednesday.