Deputy asked to apologize for breaking data rules

A DEPUTY was asked to send a letter of apology for breaking member states’ code of conduct when he inadvertently copied the wrong government employee into a complaint email.

St Helier MP Mike Higgins lodged a complaint last year about the state’s senior youth official, Mark Capern, to the chief minister, copying other addresses including one he believed belong to Acting Managing Director Paul Martin, but who was for another government employee with the same name.

By forwarding the complaint to “a person who had no legitimate interest in receiving the information”, MP Higgins was found guilty of violating Article Eight of the Code on Access to Confidential Information by the Commissioner for standards, Paul Kernaghan.

A second part of Mr Capern’s complaint concerned a meeting of the First Tower Community Association in September last year, when the senior youth official said MP Higgins publicly announced he had filed a complaint against Mr. Capern, “before he told him” and “without having informed him in advance that he intended to do so,” according to a subsequent report by the Privileges and Procedures Committee released this week, which is responsible for acting on any violation of the code of conduct.

It was disputed that MP Higgins used Mr. Capern’s name or job title during the meeting, but Mr. Kernaghan concluded that “even using job titles” it violated Article Six of the code on public comments concerning a government employee or officer.

Mr. Kernaghan did not recommend any disciplinary action for the section eight violation, but instead suggested a personal letter of apology from Deputy Minister Higgins to Mr. Capern, and he made no recommendation for the violation of article six: emphasizing instead “that employment arrangements chaired by states must offer employees adequate protections and provide an environment that treats them with respect and courtesy”.

Deputy Higgins met with PPC in December of last year, following the Standards Commissioner’s investigation. He admitted that he had copied the letter of complaint to the wrong person and apologized for the error, according to the PPC report, which accepted both of the Commissioner’s findings.

PPC said MP Higgins did not dispute and apologize for the email error, but added: “The committee believes this is a timely opportunity to remind members of ” be vigilant when sending e-mails to a recipient and ensure that only those who have a legitimate reason for receiving correspondence do so.

During the meeting, Deputy Higgins maintained that he only used the officers’ job titles during the first round meeting.

However, PPC said the deputy was still breaking the code and formally asked Deputy Higgins to write a personal letter of apology to Mr Capern, but added that no further action was required.

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