Ghamari attempts to block release of cellphone records, citing PC Party confidentiality pact

By Sabrina Nanji January 27, 2021

PC MPP Goldie Ghamari is fighting the release of her cellphone records to the lawyers’ professional regulator, arguing the request is an overreach and her political status should serve as a shield.

The Law Society of Ontario requested the records as part of an investigation into allegations of professional misconduct. To wit: a former client of Ghamari’s filed a complaint alleging that he paid her a $9,500 cash retainer in 2017 to help him pursue a real-estate related claim. He argues she didn’t fulfill the terms of the retainer.

But before the Law Society can adjudicate on the original complaint, it’s attempting to get a hold of Ghamari’s call and text logs over a six-month period and accusing her of having “utterly stonewalled” the investigation over the past two years.

A tribunal hearing was held last Friday to determine if that warrants further suspending her lawyer’s licence, and whether she should cough up $9,663 for the Law Society’s procedural costs, plus a $2,000 fine. Ghamari is already administratively suspended for not paying fees and failing to submit certain reports; she says she wound down her practice in 2016 so she could focus on her political bid.

Ghamari says she’s obligated to keep call logs under wraps
The MPP for Carleton is now fighting the release of the outstanding call logs, calling it a “blanket” authorization that would reveal “highly sensitive” political information because she was already nominated as a PC Party candidate at the time, and had signed a confidentiality agreement.

“I am under an obligation to keep a lot of political data confidential,” Ghamari said.

There was no evidence presented at the hearing by Ghamari or her duty counsel, Norm Emblem, to suggest the PC Party’s confidentiality agreement would override a lawyer’s obligation to disclose the requested information under the Law Society Act. The PC Party did not respond to questions.

The Law Society is asking for the logs, not the actual texts themselves, and could redact irrelevant phone numbers besides the ones connected to its investigation. But Ghamari said it’s too much of a risk for “some random person to go through my political campaign calls and texts.”

“I’m an elected official. I have to be very careful with my personal and private life,” she said. “I cannot and I will not disclose the phone numbers, the personal and private phone numbers of elected officials, or people who have contacted me to express their support or anything else.”

‘This is serious’: Law Society urges MPP to comply amid emotional hearing
Elaine Strosberg, disciplinary counsel for the Law Society, said it’s a routine ask for the call logs, akin to banking records. Investigators said it will help determine the communications, if any, between Ghamari and the former client.

Ghamari’s testimony was at times emotional and heated. (Queen’s Park Today has transcribed the full testimony here, edited for clarity and length.)

Ghamari acknowledged the delay in getting the requested information to the Law Society’s investigators was “a mistake” and explained that she was going through a tough divorce and suffering “mental anguish.”

“I just shut down,” she said.

When pressed on why she was able to fulfill her duties as a politician, but not follow up with Law Society investigators, Ghamari apologized. “It’s just at some point, something has to give,” she said.

Adjudicator Murray Chitra reserved his decision for now, but warned Ghamari there would be some finding of professional misconduct and urged her to unearth the records in question.

“One way or another, there will be a finding of professional misconduct,” Chitra said. “You need to get those records, this is serious … You have a duty as a member of a licensed and regulated profession to promptly and expeditiously provide information, and now’s the time. It was probably the time a long while ago.”