“I don’t remember” sounds a whole lot better than “I’ve got something to hide.” And that’s what I think Martyn Brown’s testimony at the BC Rail Trial adds up to.
In fact what Martyn Brown’s testimony does reveal is his MO as Chief of Staff to the Premier: Brown may be the most secretive operative to ever work in government. He leaves no clues, hides all business and generally leaves no trace of his existence in the big office at the end of the corridor of power in Victoria.
Here’s an example of a typical workweek for Mr. Brown as recorded in his calendar and released under the Freedom of Information Act.
As you can see he did nothing that week. And thumbing through Brown’s calendar you see that he did nothing all the other weeks he collected a pay cheque from the taxpayers. Reviewing his calendar an average person could easily conclude that Martyn Brown, since June 2001, has sat in his office meditating or more likely, playing battleship on his empty computer.
The same is true about correspondence, email and every form of electronic or paper documents. Not one email to or from Brown has turned up in hundreds of Premier’s Office FOIs on all the hot topics of the day.
Either Martyn Brown keeps it all in his head or he covers his tracks, wiping out any and all traces of his activities on a daily basis.
You can bet it’s the latter.
As he testified Wednesday in an impassioned plea to the court, it’s all too much to keep appointments and briefings and conversations locked up in his head. Here’s Mark Hume’s summary of Brown’s testimony about his inability to remember anything about the BC Rail deal:
“Repeatedly you and Mr. McCullough have challenged my veracity … I am answering as honestly as I can … I am telling the truth,” Mr. Brown replied.
He ran through a long list of things he had to do during a typical workday, attending cabinet committee meetings, reading briefing notes, scanning hourly briefs on media coverage, talking with top staff and keeping the Premier’s office running smoothly – and said anyone saddled with so many duties would have trouble remembering details of specific events.
Mr. Brown likened it to a college student who crams for an exam, but then a few years later can’t even remember what books were studied.
In testimony he cites the many meetings a day, the hourly briefings etc… A worklife filled with around the clock obligations… But his calendar lists no meetings, no briefings. It’s a blank slate.
Why’s that? Probably because he scrubs his calendar clean every day. Just like Brown probably scrubs his email and every other record of his activity until the record of his worklife resembles that of a monk under a vow of silence.
There’s only one problem with that. Disposing of those kind of records may violate government law and policy on records retention… More about that another day.
Oh wait. There is one more question.
What’s Martyn Brown got to hide so badly he erases all evidence of his existence at the top of the heap in the Premier’s office?