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The former CEO of Atlantic Canada’s largest children’s hospital has chosen to face a potentially lengthy and complex fraud trial in provincial court, her lawyer says.

Tracy Kitch’s lawyer, Joel Pink, said in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday that the date for a three– to four-week trial will be set on July 2.

Pink did not enter a plea for his client, however Crown attorney Peter Dostal said outside court that it is “anticipated” that the former IWK Health Centre CEO will formally plead not guilty at the next court appearance.

Dostal told reporters the alleged fraud is in the five figures, but he linked the “gravity” of the alleged offence to the senior position Kitch held.

“We’re very mindful of the fact the offence relates to people in very high positions in the executive in a very large organization in Halifax,” he said. Pink didn’t offer comment outside court, and Kitch wasn’t present for the date-setting hearing before Judge Ann Marie Simmons.

An independent review concluded that Kitch owed tens of thousands of dollars for “potentially personal” expenses charged to her IWK corporate credit card between August 2014 and June 2017.

Dostal told reporters that hearing witnesses and going through the detailed financial documents on these expenses would mean a potential fraud trial would require weeks of testimony.

“We’re looking to call anywhere from 25 to 30 witnesses and to go through a fair number of documents,” said the prosecutor.

The trial would include a review of the Grant Thornton probe of expenses over a three– to four-year period.

“Much of that material may be at issue throughout the course of the trial,” said Dostal.

Kitch, who resigned as CEO of the Halifax children’s hospital in August 2017, is charged with breach of trust and fraud over $5,000.

She was arrested at her Oakville, Ont., home in October 2018.

Former CFO Stephen D’Arcy, who stepped down on Sept. 25, 2017, was charged with breach of trust, unauthorized use of computer and mischief to data. The Toronto resident turned himself into police.

Kitch joined the IWK in August 2014 and was earning an annual salary of $296,289 at the time of her departure.

The Grant Thornton review found there were “significant delays” in her submission of claims, which limited the Halifax hospital’s ability to identify potential issues.

The report, issued after CBC raised questions about IWK expense accounts, found Kitch had been allotted 10 days annually for professional development but exceeded that by 14 days in 2015 and seven days in 2016.

It found the IWK paid for membership fees beyond those contractually agreed to, including the Air Canada Maple Leaf Club Lounge and membership in the College of Registered Nurses of Ontario.

Among items seen as potentially personal, the report detailed $26,463.80 for flight pass usage; $4,636.55 for mobile data overages; $4,474.34 for taxis; $1,580.31 for hotel-related costs; $394.75 for meals; and $161.40 in iTunes charges.

Nova Scotia’s auditor general, Michael Pickup, has said he was shocked by a lack of oversight and basic financial management controls at the hospital.

Pickup concluded the IWK’s board of directors failed to create a culture that promoted accountability.

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