But that was hardly the only business that Dr. Porter launched while steering the MUHC and its 12,000 employees. He threw himself into multiple mining ventures in Quebec and Sierra Leone and sat on the boards of investment funds and a bio-tech start-up. He also leaped into another growth industry – the solar-power business. And this time, the chair of Canada’s spy watchdog aligned himself with the former vice-president of a company controlled by the family of Vito Rizzuto, the Montreal mob boss.
In 2010, Dr. Porter became the principal investor in Liberation Energy Inc., a partnership between himself and Lou Gallucci. Mr. Gallucci had the unfortunate history of working as an executive vice-president for OMG, a small advertising company that gained notoriety in the early 2000s after it emerged that it was secretly owned by gangsters and their family members, including the Rizzutos, as well as Juan Ramon Fernandez, later convicted of drug trafficking and a murder conspiracy.
Mr. Gallucci declined to comment for publication, but has vehemently denied he was aware of any connection between his previous employer and the Mafia. He once said in an affidavit that he would never forget the day “my child asked me what the mob was and whether I was a member.”
Liberation appears to have done very little business; one staff member was previously the manager of an establishment in Toronto’s nightclub district. The company and Dr. Porter are being sued by an Ontario numbered company, registered to a Toronto accountant named David Foley, for failing to make good on a $250,000 promissory note.
Not surprisingly, given his myriad commitments, the staff at the MUHC’s six hospitals noticed something about Dr. Porter: He was often absent.
“In one period from January to April, I’m told that he was here eight days,” said one former MUHC executive. “So he’d come for a board meeting and leave again, and he was running the hospital on his BlackBerry.”
The former directors and executives who spoke to The Globe said a number of them were openly frustrated by Dr. Porter’s wandering attention, but efforts to rein him in fell under the purview of a committee within the larger board. Dr. Porter told CBC Radio in an interview that this committee, which was called the Nominating and Governance Committee and included Mr. Angus as well as the vice-chair, Montreal businessman Claudio Bussandri (who has since been named chairman), was given access to a dossier that listed all of Dr. Porter’s outside business pursuits.
Since Tuesday, when the Quebec government released its scathing review of the MUHC’s finances, several criticisms have been levelled at the board of directors for not properly overseeing Dr. Porter. The former directors who spoke to The Globe said it wasn’t that Dr. Porter was never challenged – he was, after all, surrounded by some of Montreal’s most accomplished citizens, including academics, lawyers, physicians and business executives. Rather, it appeared the board was structured so that his most outspoken critics had less power.
The former directors also said Dr. Porter excluded all staff and managers from board meetings, so that basic questions about waiting times and costs went unanswered.
“Arthur was so far away from the operations that he didn’t know the answers,” a former director said. “Or maybe he didn’t choose to answer. Who knows? The consequence of it is that we were given a binder full of mundane reports prepared by junior people that didn’t tell you anything.”