Board wages ‘smacks of cronyism,’ says opposition

The legislature's fall sitting is still a week away, but opposition leaders are already slamming the government for bungling the overpayment of board members at the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

The legislature’s fall sitting is still a week away, but opposition leaders are already slamming the government for bungling the overpayment of board members at the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

Over $17,600 made its way into board members’ pockets, against government rules, in the first half of 2009. Corporation chair Craig Tuton announced earlier this month that the money won’t be returned because the government hasn’t requested it.

“It’s not a rationale, it’s perhaps a lame excuse,” said Elizabeth Hanson, leader of the territorial New Democrats.

The board doubled its members’ remuneration and gave Tuton an extra $2,000 monthly stipend late last year. The board is allowed to set its own wages as long as there’s no directive from cabinet.

However, in December 2009, cabinet ordered the board to adopt its former, lower pay scale.

But for six months, the board continued to collect its jacked-up paycheques. It wasn’t until June 2009 – at the board’s request – that cabinet authorized the larger remunerations.

The breaching of rules shows the government picks favorites when it comes to boards and committees, said Hanson. Tuton has managed the Yukon Party’s electoral campaigns for decades.

“They may have been able to make a case for all this if they had actually followed due process, but it just smacks of cronyism at this stage,” she said.

Tuton shouldn’t be waiting for the government to claw back the money, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

“The rationale for the chair of any board should be to follow policy, and in this case, policy was made clear by the existence of an OIC,” said Mitchell. “If the chair of a board, who is responsible for a policy and takes a leadership role in enforcing it, discovers that they have erred in following the policy, you think they would be eager to remedy the situation.”

Tuton used to promote himself as a charitable board chair. During the 2006 election, he told the News he would donate his remuneration to the Yukon Hospital Foundation.

“I’m not in this for financial gain,” he said at the time.

“I’m basically donating my time.”

Tuton’s annual remuneration for sitting on the hospital board back then was $2,400. But since the changes put forth last year, Tuton earns $34,700 a year for sitting on the board.

If it’s really up to the government to get the unauthorized $17,600 back, it has already shown a lack of will, said Mitchell.

The government had the chance to have taxpayers’ money returned when it issued the second order-in-council in June 2009, he said.

“The government had an option,” he said. “The board spent six months with the higher rate. They then passed an OIC authorizing the higher rate. If they wanted to clean it up, they could have made it retroactive. But they didn’t.

“So they certainly left the ball in Mr. Tuton’s court, and that seems to be a poor way of managing it.”

It’s also highly unlikely that the government didn’t realize for six months that the board was being overpaid, he said.

“They would have had to inform the government because you don’t just take money without touching base,” he said. “And the government should have said, ‘Wait a minute, you can’t do that.’

“Somebody somewhere has failed in their responsibilty.”

A request for comment from Glenn Hart, the Minister of Health and Social Services, and Dennis Fentie, who is both premier and Finance Minister, were not returned before press time.

Their silence speaks volumes, said Hanson.

“Has Mr. Fentie suggested as Minister of Finance that they want the money back?” she said. “It seems to me the question should be asked of the minister when something like this happens – what process do they follow to rectify and get the money returned to the taxpayers?”

Both opposition leaders promised to raise the subject when the legislature reconvenes on September 21.

“It doesn’t respect the process that’s been set out for how boards and committees are remunerated,” said Hanson. “It seems pretty ad hoc at this stage.”

Hanson will attend the hospital corporation’s annual general meeting on September 22, she said. Mitchell wasn’t sure if he was going to attend.

“I’ll be there with alert ears,” she said.

The meeting will be held in the hospital cafeteria at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.

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