Disbarred Ottawa lawyer appealing law society decision

 

A disgraced union executive who lost her lawyer’s licence for “conduct unbecoming” after misusing funds for years — including money destined for renowned charities — is now appealing.

Sheila Joy Stanislawski, 66, was the longtime director of the Civic Institute of Professional Personnel (CIPP). Her career ended when she was let go after financial irregularities were discovered in 2015. The ex-union executive was also a lawyer in good standing, up until last month.

Her position is that she did nothing wrong.

“This is far from being a clear-cut case of good versus evil. It has been characterized as theft, but my client’s position remains that all relevant moneys were owed to her and that there was no dishonesty whatsoever,” said her lawyer, Andrew Rogerson.

Stanislawski’s licence was revoked by the Law Society of Ontario in December. A disciplinary panel concluded she used the union’s accounts like her own personal bank account.

The law society panel found Stanislawski knowingly took annual vacation pay to which she wasn’t entitled (amounting to around $100,000 before tax), knowingly used union money for her own purposes with at least $80,000 misused this way, received money for expenses to be paid to suppliers who weren’t actually paid, and filed false expense claims, altering documents to support the claims.

“While Ms. Stanislawski expressed regret during the merits hearing for having made mistakes, she has not expressed remorse or acceptance of responsibility for the misconduct that we have found. In her evidence, she sought to place responsibility for what happened on others. She has not demonstrated an understanding of the effect of her misconduct on others,” the law society concluded.

Stanislawski was removed from her position in 2015 after serving about 18 years with CIPP, the bargaining agent for 1,800 municipal public service employees in the Ottawa area.

She reached a settlement with CIPP that had her pay back nearly $230,000 in 2015.

She paid the money back under the threat that it would be reported to the authorities, according to filings by her lawyer.

Instead of admitting to conduct unbecoming of a barrister or solicitor, Stanislawski fought the law society and lost. Not only did Stanislawski lose, but the law society has ordered her to pay discounted costs of the investigation and prosecution.

The former lawyer and union boss has been ordered to pay the law society $125,000, with annual $25,000 payments starting on May 30, 2022, and ending on June 1, 2026. If Stanislawski misses a payment, the unpaid portion of the $125,000 in costs will be immediately due and payable.

The union director was out of work for five years after the money scandal but now works as the executive director for an Ottawa seniors’ organization.

Stanislawski testified that the law society investigation and the conduct unbecoming application took a toll on her and her family. She testified that she has insomnia and extreme anxiety. She testified that she sought help from her family doctor, who referred her for counselling and recommended medication, and that she is being seen weekly by a psychologist.

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