Nova Scotia

Evidence dispute puts start of former IWK executive's trial in jeopardy

Former IWK CEO Tracy Kitch's trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 4, but that now seems unlikely because of issues with evidence that defence lawyers are trying to access.

Former CEO Tracy Kitch's trial is scheduled to start Jan. 4

The trial for the IWK Health Centre's former CEO appears poised to be delayed. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

The trial of former IWK Health Centre CEO Tracy Kitch appears destined to be delayed.

Kitch, who is facing charges of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust, was scheduled to begin her trial on Jan. 4 in Halifax provincial court.

But efforts by her lawyers, and the lawyer for the Halifax hospital's former chief financial officer, to get access to documents from the Nova Scotia auditor general's office have not gone as expected.

Earlier this month, as part of a third-party records application by defence lawyers, acting auditor general Terry Spicer testified about the office's work on a performance audit of the hospital that was completed in 2018.

Unbeknownst to anyone before he took the stand, however, Spicer had recused himself from that audit because his wife works at the hospital. As a result, he had no useful information.

Although a lawyer for the auditor general's office initially seemed to suggest they would make people who did work on the audit available for questioning, they then said it would require a subpoena. They later indicated they would seek to quash those subpoenas.

In an interview Monday, Jamie MacNeil, a lawyer for the auditor general's office, said that while it might seem like there was a shift in position, in fact there was not. He declined to elaborate further because the application to quash is still before the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

Former IWK CEO Tracy Kitch and Stephen D'Arcy, the hospital's former CFO, are both facing charges related to their handling of personal expenses. (CBC)

On Friday in court, MacNeil said it would likely be March before the Supreme Court could hear the application. Provincial court Judge Elizabeth Buckle asked MacNeil to try to get an earlier date based on the urgency of the situation.

The parties are due back in court this week for an update.

Jacqueline King, Kitch's lawyer, called the situation "extremely unfortunate."

"We certainly didn't expect to have a witness that couldn't answer any substantive questions about the audit," she said in a telephone interview. "That, we did not see coming."

Police focused on $13,000

King said she and Christie Hunter, the lawyer for former CFO Stephen D'Arcy, believe the documents they're seeking are relevant and necessary to their respective cases.

Kitch's lawyers and Crown prosecutor Peter Dostal told Buckle on Friday that it would likely be too complicated to begin the trial before a ruling is made on the application by the auditor general's office.

Both expressed frustration about not being able to begin the trial as scheduled.

Kitch and D'Arcy resigned from their posts in 2017 following an investigation into personal spending with corporate credit cards. A report by Grant Thornton showed Kitch charged the hospital $47,000 in personal expenses, all of which she paid back. Earlier this month in court, King referred to production orders by police that say their investigation focused on about $13,000 of those expenses.

The delays have Kitch "very frustrated and very upset," said King.

The trial for D'Arcy, who faces charges of breach of trust, unauthorized use of a computer and mischief to data, is scheduled to begin next June. He paid back almost $17,000 in expenses before stepping down.