Fentie on hospital: “What money?”

Premier Dennis Fentie won't claw back $17,600 of taxpayers' money accidentally paid to the Yukon Hospital Corporation board of directors.

Premier Dennis Fentie won’t claw back $17,600 of taxpayers’ money accidentally paid to the Yukon Hospital Corporation board of directors.

While exiting a conference on First Nation self-governance on Thursday morning, he avoided questions surrounding the government’s screw-up of board remuneration rules.

The money in question was paid to board members in the first six months of 2010 despite government regulations prohibiting the extra pay.

Corporation board chair Craig Tuton announced two weeks ago the money wouldn’t be returned because the government hasn’t requested it.

Fentie, who is also Finance Minister, confirmed he won’t ask for the money back.

“In these matters, where people are appointed to boards, we tend to, as much as possible, allow those individuals to work within their roles and responsibilities,” he said on Thursday.

The board has been allowed to set its own pay since 1993. Late last year, it gave itself a dramatic raise. Tuton’s personal remuneration went from $2,400 a year to $34,800.

But the Yukon Hospital Act says that if the government passes orders entrenching a certain pay grade, the board loses its independence and must follow the orders. In December 2009, the government issued an order setting the board’s rate at figures before the raise.

Still, the board didn’t stop paying itself the jacked-up wages. It wasn’t until six months later – at the board’s request – that the government issued an order authorizing the raise.

Fentie hasn’t returned multiple requests for comment. And on Thursday, he still wouldn’t acknowledge the rules.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding, probably some confusion, about what the rules say or didn’t say,” he said.

“For years, the decisions at the board level were being made in a manner that I guess individuals and governments thought were a practice to be followed.”

But according to the hospital act, the raise was not authorized for six months – meaning nearly $17,600 shouldn’t have been paid to board members.

“I think you should ask the hospital about (the rules),” said Fentie.

But hospital president Joe MacGillivray provided this exact explanation in an interview two months ago.

“That’s good,” said Fentie. “Good explanation.”

Nearby, a truck nearly backed into another car and Fentie whistled.

“Anyway, have a good day,” he said.

He was asked one more time whether taxpayers were going to get their money back.

“What money?” he asked, and walked away.

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