Lawyers for former IWK Health Centre CEO Tracy Kitch want her trial next month on fraud and breach of trust charges adjourned to give them more time to seek out and speak to former board members for the Halifax children's hospital.
Kitch's defence team made the argument Tuesday via video conference in Nova Scotia provincial court. The issue boils down to delays the defence said it's experienced getting contact information for about eight people.
Brian Greenspan was blunt in his explanation to Judge Elizabeth Buckle of the need for the application. He pointed to what he called the "intransigence" of the province's auditor general's office, which had investigated financial controls at the hospital, with respect to making necessary materials available as he and lawyer Jacqueline King prepare Kitch's defence.
"This is not desirable in any part, and yet we believe that our hands are tied. We have little if no options other than to make this request," he said.
"We would have had the time if the auditor general had not been so obstinate, stubborn, obstructionist in their approach to this entire matter. That's what's caused this."
Kitch faces two charges
Kitch is charged with fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust related to expenses billed to the hospital during her time as CEO.
A report commissioned by the board in 2017 found that about $47,000 in charges deemed personal were expensed to the hospital. Kitch repaid all the money several months after stepping down from her post.
The board chair at the time went to the police and auditor general's office about the matter. Last year, King made an application to get additional records from the auditor general's office related to their audit of the IWK, including the names of people interviewed.
The process was fraught, on account of the two witnesses the auditor general's office put forward as part of the records application having no direct knowledge of the audit. Lawyers for Kitch and the hospital's former CFO, Stephen D'Arcy, who is also facing charges, had to ultimately subpoena the witnesses the auditor general's office said were best suited to speak to the matter. The auditor general's office went to Nova Scotia Supreme Count in an attempt to quash those subpoenas.
On Tuesday, King and Greenspan said they're still awaiting the release of some information from the court.
In an email, a lawyer for the auditor general's office said his client "followed the court process" throughout its involvement and all records were turned over to the court. Buckle's decision in the application for records "reflected that our client had a right and obligation to maintain confidentiality," said Jamie MacNeil.
Other ways to get information
Crown attorney Peter Dostal opposed the application to delay the trial.
He told the court that among the volume of documents released to defence lawyers so far are pages that include names, emails, addresses and, in some cases, phone numbers for members of the board during Kitch's tenure at the hospital.
Even if the defence lacks certain contact details, Dostal argued there are other ways to track down the information.
"These are sophisticated people in the world of business and academia and health fields, all of whom have a public, professional presence and I'd say, in most cases, have some degree of public profile to allow them to search," he said.
"I'd suggest none of these people are hard to find."
Judge will rule Wednesday
But King told the court she and her team have done their due diligence and it still has not been enough to get access to what they need.
"We have done everything we can. It's not as easy as my friend says to obtain this information. I've had two lawyers in my office working on this."
Buckle will deliver her ruling Wednesday. King asked that even if the judge does not grant the adjournment that the trial be pushed back one week to allow the defence additional time to prepare.
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