No expense too small for Mazza to bill to Ornge, documents show
Former top Ornge executive Dr. Chris Mazza testifies before a committee at Queen’s Park, Wednesday, July 18, 2012.
Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 18, 2013 3:39PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 18, 2013 7:01PM EST
TORONTO -- Chris Mazza, the former CEO of Ontario's troubled air ambulance service, billed taxpayers thousands of dollars in expenses each month while receiving more than a million dollars in loans from Ornge, newly released documents show.
Mazza 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 -- not even 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 irregularites.
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 government cleaned house at the agency 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 abused their taxpayer-funded expense accounts.
Mazza's expenses are another example of Mazza's "complete disregard for the public trust," said Health Minister Deb Matthews.
"I will do everything I can to get every penny back," she said.
Matthews had to give her 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.