Nova Scotia

Crown, defence give closing arguments in fraud trial of former IWK executive

Tracy Kitch is charged with breach of trust and fraud over $5,000 stemming from her time at the helm of the Halifax children’s hospital from 2014-17.

Tracy Kitch is charged with fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust

Tracy Kitch looks out from the door of a courtroom during her trial in this file photo from last month. (Robert Short/CBC)

Closing arguments concluded Friday in the trial of a former CEO of the IWK Health Centre, with the Crown and defence presenting opposing definitions of what constitutes fraud.

Tracy Kitch is charged with breach of trust and fraud over $5,000 stemming from her time at the helm of the Halifax-based children's hospital from 2014-2017. During that period, Kitch expensed thousands of dollars in personal charges to a corporate credit card, although it was eventually all repaid.

Crown attorney Peter Dostal argued Friday that whether the money was repaid isn't the issue. He pointed to hospital policies that prohibited the actions in the first place.

Dostal directed the court to Kitch's work calendar. He argued there wasn't information there to justify a variety of trips Kitch took to Toronto, however, flights or taxis were expensed.

Trips to Ontario questioned

Although Kitch was working in Halifax, her family continued to reside in Oakville, Ont., and Dostal argued that the former executive looked for ways and excuses to travel back home at the hospital's expense, even if there wasn't a business case.

If Kitch didn't know what she was doing was wrong, she was willfully blind to the rules, Dostal told the court.

"We don't need an expert to know that public money spent in this fashion is reckless at the least," he told Judge Paul Scovil.

Dostal told reporters outside the courtroom that without a bona fide business reason, public funds cannot be spent.

"In a position such as a CEO, where the policies are crystal clear that personal expenditures are not permitted, you cannot go around with a corporate credit card and spend it on personal matters regardless of whether you intend to pay it back, regardless of whether you read every word of that particular policy," he said.

"It is not permitted to do that."

The defence takes a different position.

'There's been no deception,' says defence

Matilda Lici told Scovil that for Kitch's actions to be considered fraud, there must be evidence of an effort to deceive or to be willfully blind in her actions. She reminded the court that not one witness testified to seeing anything of the sort.

Lici argued that the evidence the Crown relied upon, including Kitch's business calendar, was incomplete or insufficient for a finding of fraud and questioned why someone in such a high-ranking position would risk her job for the sake of cheap flights or free taxi rides.

Throughout the trial, the defence pointed to multiple examples of Kitch flagging her own personal expenses and eventually repaying them.

In a telephone interview from Ontario —  where she, Lici and Kitch appeared in court via remote link — lead defence counsel Jacqueline King said the legal definition the Crown advanced for fraud is "incorrect."

"Fraud is deception. Period. And there's been no deception," said King.

"Fraud is not about whether a policy is followed or we'd all be in jail.… Fraud has got to do with whether someone intentionally set out to deceive or deprive someone."

Scovil said he would deliver his decision on Feb. 28.