Chris Mazza made $9.3M in 6 years at Ornge, minister confirms

Ousted Ornge CEO Chris Mazza collected $9.3 million over six years at the province's publicly funded air ambulance service, the governing Liberals confirmed Wednesday.
Chris Mazza, seen during a committee appearance last year, collected $9.3 million in compensation during his six years at Ornge. (Ian Willms/Canadian Press)

Ousted Ornge CEO Chris Mazza collected $9.3 million over six years at the province's publicly funded air ambulance service, the governing Liberals confirmed Wednesday.

The recently reported figure "is accurate," Health Minister Deb Matthews said after testifying at a legislative committee that is looking into the Ornge spending scandal.

That includes salary, bonuses, expenses and other fees, she said. A summary sheet outlining what Mazza collected will be provided to the committee to "make it all clear."

The committee had previously heard that Mazza made $1.4 million in a single year, on top of hefty loans totalling $1.2 million, but the grand total had not been confirmed until Wednesday.

Both opposition parties grilled Matthews at the committee about why she didn't make that figure public before.

She said she provided two million pages of documents last year to the committee that provided plenty of information about Mazza's compensation.

But the opposition parties said they could only find $5.6 million for Mazza in the documents. They said a government forensic audit report wasn't part of the package, even though the committee asked for all documents related to Mazza's compensation.

The committee got the 106-page report this week after making a specific request for the document.

The June 2012 report, which tried to trace money that went to Ornge's complex web of for-profit entities, shows that Mazza received $7.6 million between 2007 and 2011.

That included $1.53 million in medical stipends that were paid to Mazza's private company, which received $25,400 every month between 2006 and 2011 even after he resigned as medical director in June 2011.

It appears that payments were made "without any supporting invoices or support for the work," the report said.

Ornge execs paid $52.8M in from 2007-2011

Executives at Ornge and its for-profit companies received $52.8 million between 2007 and 2011, it said. Almost $2 million was paid to board directors, including former chairman Rainer Beltzner, whose compensation topped $232,757 in 2011.

"The ministry sat on this, and it wasn't until we called for it this past week that we now have access to this," said Tory Frank Klees.

"Transparency? Accountability? The minister has learned no lessons."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has called for Matthews to resign, said it's "unacceptable" that taxpayers are only learning about Mazza's total compensation two years after the scandal hit the front pages.

"The government likes to talk a good game around transparency and openness," she said.

"They have a panel that's looking at better government openness. You can start being open by letting the people of this province know what they're paying for when it comes to executives like Chris Mazza."

Matthews said the final forensic investigation report doesn't paint the whole picture. It doesn't include expenses and the information about his compensation has been updated since then, she added.

"It's expanded from what you see in the audit report," she said.

"I believe the forensic audit time period is one year less than what's in the documentation provided to committee."

Ornge, which receives about $150 million from the province, has been under fire for almost two years over sky-high salaries, financial irregularities and corruption allegations.

Salary was absent from 'Sunshine List'

Mazza's salary disappeared from the so-called sunshine list of top paid public sector workers after 2007, when his salary was listed at $298,254.

The report found Mazza actually collected $923,953 in 2007.

It shows his pay grew exponentially over the years. Other documents tabled to the committee show Mazza claimed extravagant expenses, including luxurious trips to Brazil, Europe and New York.

Various managers were paid through several of the for-profit companies and billed back to Ornge, fees which technically don't require public disclosure, the report said.

In 2011, the pay for 135 employees totalling $16.4 million was disclosed on the sunshine list. But the $11.8 million collected by 50 other executives was not.

They also enjoyed generous perks, the report showed. Ornge paid for an executive MBA for Kelly Long, Mazza's girlfriend and former water-ski instructor, while still getting a full salary and time off for study and classes.

Ornge became a conglomerate of 20 interrelated not-for-profit and for-profit companies, only eight of which had any employees, the report said. The for-profits were ultimately controlled by certain board directors and Mazza. Almost all the money that flowed to them came from government funds.

Each board within the conglomerate was controlled by a common group of individuals, it said. Many of the directors were also Ornge officers and employees. However, shoddy record-keeping — or no records at all — prevented auditors from figuring out where much of the money actually went.

The committee has heard that the Liberals allowed Ornge to set up its for-profit entities, but didn't pay attention to what was going on. Those subsidiaries are now bankrupt.

Ornge is trying to recover some of the money from Mazza, who is countersuing, alleging that he's owned $1 million in unpaid bonuses.

A spokeswoman at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said Mazza performed some unpaid work for the hospital recently.

"Dr. Mazza's initial visit (and only, to date) was exploratory, and essentially that of a volunteer in that he was not paid, did not bill for any of his services and covered his own travel, meals and accommodation," Tracie Smith said in an email.

Ontario's auditor general has criticized the governing Liberals for failing to oversee Ornge, despite giving it $730 million over five years and allowing it to borrow another $300 million.

The Liberals insist Ornge went rogue with a web of for-profit companies and questionable business deals, as well as exorbitant salaries and lavish expenses.


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