Burnaby petitions Microsoft to identify source of 'malicious rumours'

The City of Burnaby is trying to find the source of "malicious rumours" circulating at city hall.

And it's going through the courts to enlist a multi-national corporation to help them do it.

The city filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month calling on Microsoft Canada to disclose any information that could identify the person behind an email address.

According the the petition, the city learned on Nov. 28 that an anonymous email was sent from the address to the husband of a city employee. The author claimed to also be employed by city hall.

The content of the email was determined to be false, the petition said.

But it caused "significant concern" because the author's knowledge of the workplace suggests they are either  an employee of the city or closely associated with someone who is, it said.

It also "offends the City's bullying and harassment policies as it contains malicious rumours" about the employee whose husband was contacted.

"The spreading of malicious rumours about other employees is in direct contravention of the City's Respectful Workplace Policy," it said. The city has an obligation to investigate any instances of harassment and bullying.

Already, city hall's extensive investigation has included interviews with employees, a search of its computer and information technology systems, and hiring an expert to figure out the source of the email and the people behind it.

What the city knows so far is that the email address was issued by Microsoft Canada and that it is associated with a secondary email address.

That's why it needs Microsoft's cooperation, the petition said. "There is no other practical way for the City to identify the person(s) responsible for the breach of the Policy."

Pat Tennant, Burnaby's director of human resources, declined to divulge the nature of the rumours, calling it a "private, confidential staff matter that I really can't discuss."

She did say, "These situations certainly don't occur very often at all."

As for turning to the courts to petition a multi-billion-dollar corporation like Microsoft, Tennant said the city needs to enforce its policies.

"We do take our responsibilities seriously and our respectful workplace policy is important to us … Employers have policies in order to ensure fair process when something arises so we do take that seriously and we have to follow through."

As of Thursday, Microsoft had yet to file a response to the petition request.

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