Why are Islanders being denied Access to Robert Ghiz’s Records?
Stewart McKelvey Law Firm apparently has a fully-intact copy of all of Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and emails that Islanders can’t access….or perhaps it’s just another lie that hasn’t been fully exposed yet…you be the judge.
Last February, 2019, I decided to see if I could find out if Premier Ghiz’s files were still intact. With the “scorched earth” strategy employed with Premier Ghiz’s senior staff who worked on egaming as the guiding minds, I wondered: “Would Premier MacLauchlan do to Ghiz’s records what Ghiz did to his Chief of Staff’s records?”
I always wondered why Ghiz resigned so abruptly without any apparent warning. This sudden move surprised even his own Cabinet. It later came out that Ghiz’s decision came just days after private investigator Bruce MacDonald filed his investigative report into CMT and egaming – a report that served as the catalyst for Robin Doolittle with the Globe and Mail to visit PEI and undertake her own investigation. That led to a front-page Globe and Mail story exposing the truth about the egaming scandal in February, 2015 with Premier MacLauchlan already Premier (but not yet elected).
I filed a FOIPP with a couple of “sure hits” guaranteed to produce responsive records. No records in response to my request would mean that they were either made too difficult to locate (hidden) or that there were simply no records (deleted).
I asked for all Ghiz’s emails and records for two relatively short periods of time. I then received a letter from APSO Coordinator Kathyrn Dickson requesting that I narrow my search:
SHOCKER #1: APSO Informs Me that All Ghiz’s Electronic Records Had Been Deleted
On March 1, 2019 I sent the following email to Ms. Dickson with information narrowing my request to just one “week”. I figured that would be more than adequate to answer the question whether Ghiz’s records still existed within government.
I responded with “all good!”
I then received the following letter a week later with wording for the new FOIPP as amended:
When I read the part about “subject” it suddenly dawned on me that they had deleted all Ghiz’s electronic files. I had somehow missed seeing that in the February 15, 2019 letter from Ms Dickson.
Premier MacLauchlan apparently saw so little value in Ghiz’s work that he almost immediately warehoused his documents as if they were no longer active files. Mind-boggling. I recalled reading a transcript of an egaming Public Accounts meeting where an ITSS Senior Manager told Committee members there were over 5,000 email accounts of former government employees going back many years still fully intact on government servers.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan had apparently determined that Robert Ghiz’s records weren’t worth saving. He had them deleted from government servers just three weeks after being elected Premier. With former Premiers such as Angus McLean and Alex Campbell, once the wonders of digitization became available, there was a dedicated effort to convert all their paper records (handwritten notes, typed documents, and even correspondence) into electronic records for posterity: they were scanned and organized, and are now available to the public in a special government website page. My, how the times have changed!
I went back and read the paragraph that Ms. Dickson had referenced in her first letter. Sure enough, the information contained in somewhat less than clear terms led to one conclusion: only paper files in boxes were going to be searched for the Ghiz documents I had asked for:
Where Ms. Dickson says “…performing a search of all emails” I later learned that only meant a search of “paper copies” of all emails. I wanted to confirm that there were no electronic files to search so I asked straight up and I got a straight-up answer: they were gone. Ms. Dickson informed me that there were 18 banker boxes of paper records stored in file folders, which she happened to know from a previous request. I would therefore need to give subjects to search for rather than search “terms or words”. Why anyone would turn what should be a few minute search on a computer into a two or three day search in a closet with banker boxes is a mystery to me.”
Something sure didn’t smell right! I gave Ms. Dickson three “subject” titles but I had a sinking feeling I wouldn’t be seeing any Ghiz documents anytime soon.
A little later that same day, I realized that there would no longer be a need to restrict the time period of the FOIPP, since the search was in folders in boxes that would need to be gone through, so I sent the following email requesting that the FOIPP be broadened to make sure that if paper records existed, then I would have a wide-enough net in the search to ensure that I would get some.
I hadn’t heard anything back for a few days so I sent the following email:
I received a prompt response:
I then received a Response letter saying that no records responsive to my request were found. Hmm.
SHOCKER #2: Robert Ghiz Files No Documents In Court
A multi million-dollar law suit against a former Premier with major accusations against both him as Premier and many of his close government and personal friends and he shows up confidently with no documents. Hmm. Can’t say anything else about that other than it’s shocking.
SHOCKER # 3: Judge Campbell’s Response to CMT’s Claim that Ghiz’s Electronic Records had been Deleted
Reading Judge Campbell’s Decision, I was shocked – based on what I had learned from my Ghiz FOIPP request – to read paragraph 626 where Judge Campbell comes down hard on CMT for making the allegation that Robert Ghiz’s electronic records had been deleted. Judge Campbell once again relied entirely on Stewart McKelvey’s word:
“626 Also in Maines’ 2019 affidavit he alleged that the emails and records of Ghiz were deleted on May 29, 2015, which he maintains is evidence of “bad faith” litigation and further confirming evidence of “misfeasance in public office”. In fact, Ghiz’s emails were never deleted. The email account of Ghiz was copied and preserved the day after the initial statement of claim in this matter was filed. That was done notwithstanding i) Ghiz was not a party to the action in 2015 (he was added some 3 years later), and ii) counsel for the plaintiffs did not identify Ghiz as having any relevant documents for the purpose of the litigation.”
How is it that Stewart McKelvey lawyers “inherited” proprietary rights over Premier Ghiz’s records while Islanders are denied access? I was told by an APSO worker that the electronic files had all been deleted. They had to send someone into a room full of banker boxes to search file folder headings.
But it gets worse. A timeline of events helps to shine a light on the truth.
Wade McLauchlin was elected Premier on May 4, 2015. A little over three weeks later, an Employee Removal Form was completed that instructed ITSS to remove all of Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and electronic records from Government servers. ITSS confirms that Robert Ghiz’s Records were deleted on May 29, 2015, exactly as CMT alleged. Judge Campbell seems to have relied entirely on hearsay from Jonathan Coady. There is no reference to any evidence those records in his ruling confirming the Ghiz’s electronic files and emails were retained.
Perhaps they are all at Stewart McKelvey law firm. Who knows? If that’s true, then they should be put back on the government servers and made available for FOIPP searches and use by government employees. This is what the employee removal form confirmed happened – that they were wiped from government’s servers completely:
SHOCKER #4: Paul Maines FOIPPs for Robert Ghiz Records
Court filings show that Maines submitted an Access Request more recently also asking for Robert Ghiz’s records. Maines claims that he was expecting over 1,000 documents with his request Ghiz records that even mentioned his chief of staff Chris LeClair in any record for six months leading up to the provincial election. His final response letter came on February 3, 2020 with the bad news: NO RECORDS FOUND.
What’s especially interesting in the Response Letter he received is that it appears that the Record Information Management (RIM) Coordinator undertaking the work only had access (allegedly) to hard copy records:
This is very disturbing. Why wouldn’t Stewart McKelvey via Paul Ledwell provide access to the electronic records for FOIPP searches? The RIM Coordinator has authority under our legislation to manage records in the Premier’s Office – in fact, ONLY the RIM Coordinator has that power and duty, yet it appears honest government workers are themselves being kept in the dark about what’s what with records. Hmmm.
Under the Archives and Records Act, Treasury Board policy and Record Information Management (RIM) policies in place at the departmental level at the time the RIM Coordinator was supposed to be the only person responsible for managing government records; however it now seems clear that the RIM Coordinator had no access to Ghiz’s electronic records and had to rely on “archived paper files.”
I suspect that it was the same 18 boxes of documents (if they exist at all – no proof of records were provided when there should have been records) mentioned with the Ghiz FOIPP request from Paul Maines. Only “hard copy” files are mentioned in the search used, and it took over 3 1/2 hours, so it seems pretty clear the search was not electronic. Hmm.
The Information Commissioner is currently engaged in a review of Paul Maines’ FOIPP for Ghiz’s records. Maines filed his February 3, 2020 letter from Paul Ledwell [Clerk of Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet / Deputy Minister Policy and Priorities and Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for Premier King] to the Information Commissioner in response to what Paul Maines had written in his request for review concerning Ghiz’s records.
It was that letter that finally prompted me to write this little story. I like stories with conclusions. This one doesn’t have one. Maybe that’s why I’ve been holding off on writing it. Now I’m so confused I don’t think it’s within my powers to get an end to this story and find out the truth. All I can do is describe the bizarre situation which seems to now lie before us with this conundrum over Robert Ghiz’s records.
Notwithstanding Ledwell’s assurance to the Information Commissioner that Ghiz’s electronic records were kept fully intact, the fact of the matter is that at least two FOIPP applicants (Maines and Me) have had FOIPP requests that absolutely should have produced at least some records for Ghiz and they produced nothing. Yes, paper records were said to exist, but the electronic ones that make searching easy were deleted – both Maines’ and my FOIPPs were processed on the basis that no electronic files remain for Ghiz, and I was told straight-up Robert Ghiz’s electronic files had been deleted. Read the last paragraph carefully.
PEI’s FOIPP Act gives PEI Islanders the legal right to access documents, even Robert Ghiz’s documents. The very idea that FOIPP requests from Paul Maines and one from me, both with broad search criteria designed to determine if records existed, would produce no records is ludicrous. Not a single sheet of paper from Ghiz was produced by the PEI Government through FOIPP; not a single one of his documents were produced by Jonathan Coady in Court. Hmm.
While delivering his closing remarks at the recent CMT Appeal at the end of the second day, John MacDonald again mentioned the deletion of Robert Ghiz’s records and Counsel Jonathan Cody’s refusal to disclose government documents. Judge Mitchell interjected (to paraphrase): “….but they were all backed up and provided to Stewart McKelvey weren’t they?” MacDonald’s Response (to paraphrase): “Well, that’s what they say, but no one’s ever produced one, and the records show they were deleted.” Touché!