The day before the Yukon Hospital Corporation’s annual general meeting Wednesday night, Premier Dennis Fentie assumed the blame for the overpayment on the board members’ paycheques.
Between December 2009 and June 2010, as much as $17,600 was issued to board members in breach of a government order in council.
“This problem was created by an error on the government’s part,” said hospital CEO Joe MacGillivray, who read aloud a letter sent to the hospital from Fentie the previous day.
“Accordingly, the government has decided to forgo taking any action requesting back that honorarium because the error was government’s and there was no deliberate breach of law on anybody’s part,” said MacGillivray.
For three months, the government and the board have failed to provide an explanation for the overpayment. Board chair Craig Tuton said it was the government’s responsibility, and Fentie, who rebuffed multiple requests for an interview, said last week to ask the board for an explanation.
On Wednesday, around 50 Yukoners gathered in the hospital’s cafeteria to hear Tuton and MacGillivray sketch out the corporation’s expansion into Watson Lake and Dawson City at an annual general meeting. Following a break, Tuton opened the floor for questions.
Liberal MLA Gary McRobb brought up the remuneration controversy.
“I read the story and it didn’t look very good,” said McRobb.
“If you’ve got a different and more accurate answer, then I’m sure everyone would like to hear it,” he said.
McRobb’s question and the letter were addressed to Tuton, but MacGillivray insisted he take all questions on the matter.
The mixup over the $17,600 began in November 2009, when cabinet issued an order in council on the board’s remuneration. Since 1993, the hospital board had been setting its own pay, according to rules laid out in the hospital act.
But if the government sets the pay in an order in council that document trumps the board, says the act.
For several months, the government has been asked to provide an answer for why the law was broken. Wednesday night was the first time an explanation has been provided.
“It was not cabinet’s intention to change past practice in November 2009 when government enacted regulations regarding remuneration for boards and committees,” said MacGillivray, reading the letter. “The hospital board unfortunately was included.”
The board has given itself a huge raise in the months preceding the order in council because the corporation was expanding. Tuton’s wage rose to $34,800 a year from $3,600 a year.
“The government’s remuneration levels created a problem for the board and should have been measured against the demands being placed on trustees,” said MacGillivray, quoting from Fentie’s letter.
“Government subsequently remedied the problem with a new order in council in June 2009.”
That order in council authorized the raise, but made no effort to have the money returned.
And as the letter read on Wednesday states, that money is as good as gone.
Following the meeting, Tuton was asked whether the board requested the letter from Fentie.
“The letter arrived and it clearly states answers for all your questions,” he said.
Tuton was too tired to take any more questions, he said.
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