No expense too small for Mazza to bill to Ornge, documents show
Ousted Ornge CEO Chris Mazza speaks during a legislative committee hearing examining Ontario's troubled air ambulance service on Wednesday, July 18, 2012, in Toronto. (The Canadian Press/Ian Willms)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 18, 2013 8:49PM EST
TORONTO -- A sky-high salary didn't stop former Ornge CEO Chris Mazza from billing taxpayers thousands of dollars in expenses, from luxurious trips to 75 cents for parking, newly released documents show.
Mazza also received $1.2 million in loans in a single year: $500,000 from Ornge Peel in July 2010, $250,000 from Ornge Global and another $450,000 from Ornge Global in July 2011.
Even though Mazza's compensation climbed exponentially during his tenure, there was no expense too small for him to bill to the publicly-funded organization -- such as a $2 parking permit.
But there were plenty of whopping expenses too, including pricey hotels and flights, limo rides, meals with alcohol, and even a $30 omelette.
In July 2010, Mazza expensed to Ornge Peel -- one of the organizations's for-profit entities -- nearly $6,000 for his five-day stay at the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as $8,000 for a flight to Sao Paolo.
His two-night stay at the Plaza Hotel in New York City cost $2,300, including $14 for cashews and $80 for a bike rental. A flight and stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York two months earlier cost $1,352.
Mazza expensed nearly $800 for limo rides for Ornge executives to attend an "executive dinner" at his home, as well as $360 in alcohol, including a bottle of premium vodka and single-malt scotch.
He billed Ornge for a $1,984.19 deposit to the Four Seasons Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., for an upcoming trip. Nearly $2,500 was billed for a stay at the Hyatt Grand Cypress Hotel during an aviation conference.
He expensed a $228 meal with alcohol at a posh Toronto restaurant and another $347 meal two days later that included wine, mojitos and $18 martinis. But that paled in comparison a $1,000 dinner at the Harbour Sixty restaurant in Toronto in August 2011, or a $1,200 dinner with "Augusta" in December 2007.
An all-party legislative committee that was looking into Ornge heard from its former chairman that the organization paid millions in unnecessary fees to AgustaWestland, which sold it a fleet of new helicopters for $144 million. Shortly after, the Italian company signed two contracts with Ornge totalling $6.7 million.
Ornge, which receives $150 million a year from the province, is under a criminal probe for financial irregularities.
Mazza also expensed $950 for a cellphone, $790 for a skiing course at a Montana resort and hundreds of dollars at the Apple store.
The nickel-and-diming was reminiscient of the 2009 spending scandal at eHealth that rocked the governing Liberals, forcing David Caplan to resign.
"The outrageous spending we're seeing in these documents is a slap in the face to Ontarians," NDP health critic France Gelinas said in a statement.
"They blew hundreds of millions of dollars with eHealth and they did it again with Ornge. The Liberal government can't pass the buck on this one. The people of Ontario want to know why they're stuck picking up the tab for this government's negligence."
The government cleaned house at eHealth after the auditor general found there was little to show for the $1 billion that had been spent to that point to develop electronic health records.
The Liberals also brought in new expense rules after the scandal saw consultants who were awarded untendered contracts charging eHealth thousands of dollars a day and then abusing their taxpayer-funded expense accounts.
Mazza's expenses are another example of his "complete disregard for the public trust," said Health Minister Deb Matthews.
"I will do everything I can to get every penny back," she said.
The Progressive Conservatives slammed Matthews for what they called a "conspicuously late document dump of 3,000 pages of expense reports" on Friday afternoon.
"Matthews is still trying to artfully defend the indefensible," Progressive Conservative Frank Klees said in a statement.
"After refusing for months to even acknowledge there was a problem with the way Mazza was running Ornge and refusing to grant a parliamentary investigation, patient care was compromised."
Matthews had to give permission to release the documents, which were sealed because the all-party committee investigating Ornge was shut down when Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in October.
"The only way to hold these Liberals accountable is to bring back the house on Feb. 19 and immediately reconvene the investigation into Ornge," Klees said.
"Taxpayers deserve full disclosure of this abuse of tax dollars, lack of oversight and most important, putting patients at risk."