Assistant to former IWK CEO says she repeatedly raised concerns about personal expenses

·3 min read
Tracy Kitch, left, the former chief executive of the IWK Health Centre, a children's hospital, walks outside provincial court with lawyer Jacqueline King during a break in Halifax earlier this week. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Tracy Kitch, left, the former chief executive of the IWK Health Centre, a children's hospital, walks outside provincial court with lawyer Jacqueline King during a break in Halifax earlier this week. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A former executive assistant to Tracy Kitch testified in court Friday that she repeatedly raised concerns about personal expenses being billed to the IWK Health Centre and was eventually told not to express those concerns in emails.

Alison Lucio was in the witness box for a second day in the trial of Kitch, the former CEO of the Halifax-based children's hospital. Kitch is charged with breach of trust and fraud over $5,000.

Lucio testified that as more and more personal charges started appearing on the monthly statements for Kitch's corporate credit card, she brought her concerns to the hospital's in-house legal counsel, Jen Feron.

Although she was left with the impression the matter would be addressed, Lucio testified that the personal charges kept coming. When Lucio kept expressing concerns, she testified that Feron told her not to do so via email.

"I was very vocal about my concerns for months and vocal about nothing being done about it to my knowledge," she said.

Eventually Feron told her that she needed to track Kitch's personal expenses so they could be paid back, Lucio testified. But even when bills were identified as being personal in nature, Lucio said Kitch was not always fast to repay them.

Hotel stay went unpaid for months

She detailed an instance where a four-night hotel stay in Halifax was booked for Kitch's mother through the IWK. The bill was eventually sent to the hospital and Lucio gave it to Kitch to repay. Lucio testified the charge went unpaid for months until finally the hotel appeared to get fed up.

"We kept getting calls about getting this bill and I reminded Tracy that this bill needed to be paid. So then [the hotel] threatened to be going to collections for this," Lucio told the court.

Lucio testified that when she raised the issue with Feron, she was told to "just pay it." So she filled out a purchase order for the hotel bill of slightly less than $600.

Crown prosecutor Peter Dostal spent the bulk of the day with Lucio reviewing flights Kitch took during her time as CEO, along with taxi expenses related to those trips and whether the dates matched up with any hospital-related business in her work calendar. In most cases, they did not.

Only 6 of 25 flights work-related

Dostal noted that of 25 flights Kitch took as part of a three-month unlimited flight pass, only six trips appeared to have ties to work-related business. Lucio said the hospital switched to 10-packs of flights after that because it was deemed to be more cost-effective based on the amount of work travel in Kitch's calendar.

Lucio testified after the hospital started receiving media questions about Kitch's travel, Kitch and Feron asked her to prepare an invoice showing that Kitch had repaid personal costs. While she was willing to assemble an itemized list of personal expenses, Lucio testified that she did not prepare an invoice because she was asked to backdate it.

Kitch stepped down from her post at the hospital following an audit ordered by the IWK board that showed she had expensed about $47,000 in personal charges to the hospital. Kitch eventually repaid the money in full.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday with Lucio's testimony.

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