Former Alberta Health Services chief financial officer Allaudin Merali has won a $900,000 settlement from the province’s health authority.
“AHS is satisfied that the termination of Mr. Merali’s employment is properly characterized as having been without cause,” AHS said in a release issued Friday.
Alberta Health Services fired Merali on Aug. 1, 2012, hours before a CBC investigation revealed he had run up nearly $350,000 in expense claims for meals and wine at high-end restaurants between 2005 and 2008 while employed by the former Capital Health Authority.
In a statement of claim filed in March, Merali said AHS acted in bad faith by terminating his contract. He said the improper firing made it difficult for him to find a new senior executive position in Canada. And he said AHS had continued to illegally deny him severance pay.
Merali, in his lawsuit, specifically claimed, he was defamed when Health Minister Fred Horne said at a news conference that he was "outraged" and "dumbfounded" by the spending, even though Horne knew the expenses had been approved by Capital Health.
“The defamatory statement was false and made by the minister with malice and with the deliberate intention of discrediting the financial and personal reputation of the plaintiff and exposing the plaintiff to loss of reputation, financial loss, distress, and embarrassment,” the court document stated.
Merali had sought $5.5 million dollars in damages plus $610,937 a year in lost wages since he was terminated in August 2012.
“AHS has honoured its contractual severance obligation,” AHS said of its $900,000 payment to Merali.
"Our concern and a question that comes into my mind is if we have seen this before, we are likely to see it again," said Deron Bilous, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. "And I honestly doubt, when we are talking about AHS executives, that he is the only one."
"Again, I don't condone his actions whatsoever and what was expensed. But it seems that he is being the convenient scapegoat for the PC party and AHS to blame."