A board member of Ontario’s air ambulance service says that the chairman of Ornge asked her to step down in 2006 after she questioned plans to use taxpayers’ money for a charity.
Rainer Beltzner delivered the news to Enola Stoyle over lunch a few days after the board met to discuss the charity Ornge was creating. Ms. Stoyle said he informed her that Chris Mazza, CEO at the time, was “very upset” that she did not support his plans for the charity and she had to leave.
“It was quite stunning to me,” Ms. Stoyle told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.
Ms. Stoyle, now associate director of a graduate program in management and accounting at the University of Toronto, said Dr. Mazza was the kind of charismatic leader who could get those around him to share in his vision at Ornge. She was excited, she said, to be part of an organization that was responsible for all aspects of Ontario’s air ambulance service, and never imagined that she would be shown the door just for asking how taxpayers’ money could be used for a charity.
Ms. Stoyle was not alone. Another director also upset Dr. Mazza by asking questions. Shanon Grauer, a corporate lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault, was not invited to stay on after her two-year term on the board expired in 2007, sources say.
Ms. Grauer declined to comment when contacted by The Globe. But a source close to the situation said Ms. Grauer also learned over lunch with Mr. Beltzner that her term would not be renewed.
Mr. Beltzner did not return a telephone message left at his home on Tuesday evening. He stepped down as chairman last month, after Health Minister Deb Matthews replaced the entire board.
What Ms. Stoyle was concerned about was Dr. Mazza’s plan to create an injury-prevention program for youths. The inspiration for this was born out of his own family tragedy: His teenage son, Josh, died in March, 2006, of severe head injuries sustained in a skiing accident.
Ms. Stoyle said she questioned Dr. Mazza’s plans to use taxpayers’ money to finance the charity. Ornge receives $150-million a year from the province to co-ordinate all aspects of the medical transport service.
“I was concerned that this did not fall within the mandate of the air ambulance service,” she said.
The charity, known as J Smarts, eventually got off the ground. In a memorandum to Dr. Mazza in June, 2007, Alfred Apps, a lawyer at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin and Ornge’s legal adviser wrote that Ornge could set up the charity as a not-for-profit corporation. He said keeping the investment in J Smarts to less than 1 per cent of Ornge’s revenues would not violate its agreement with the province, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Globe.
Mr. Apps did not respond to e-mail messages. Stephen Hastings, a spokesman at Fasken, said the firm is unable to comment as the matter relates to client confidentiality issues. A source close to Dr. Mazza has said the former Ornge CEO is on medication and unable to comment.
J Smarts operated out of Ornge’s headquarters in Mississauga until last month, when interim CEO Ron McKerlie shut it down. A team of 32 forensic auditors from the Finance Ministry is poring over Ornge’s financial records to determine whether taxpayers’ money was used for private gain.
Dr. Mazza’s employment was terminated two weeks ago, and Ornge is taking legal action to recover $1.2-million in loans made to him.
As for Mr. Apps, he is resigning from Fasken Martineau after 23 years at the firm, and joining Wildeboer Apps, where his brother, Eric, also practices.
Alfred Apps said in an email to The Globe last Friday that his departure has nothing to do with the problems at Ornge.
“It has been in the works for months,” he said.