'Fall from grace': Former CEO of IWK Health Centre sentenced to 5 months in jail for fraud
The former CEO of the IWK Health Centre has been sentenced to five months in jail for using public money to pay for more than $45,000 worth of personal expenses.
Tracy Kitch was found guilty of fraud over $5,000 on Feb. 28 and sentenced Wednesday in Halifax provincial court.
"We're not here for just the dollar amount, we're here because of the exploitation of the position, and we feel that the five-month sentence adequately reflects that seriousness,” said Crown attorney Peter Dostal.
In addition to jail time, Kitch was also sentenced to 12 months of probation.
"Ms. Kitch was no ordinary public employee: she received a salary that started at $280,000,” noted Judge Paul Scovil in his sentencing decision Wednesday.
“While the evidence showed Ms. Kitch to have exercised her management skills to a high degree in the running of the children's hospital, she utterly failed to follow through with the same care regarding her expense accounts."
'PERSONAL PIGGY BANK'
It was revealed that Kitch used a corporate credit card and flight passes to cover numerous flights from Toronto to Halifax for personal travel to her home.
"It is also (an) aggravating (factor) that this offender took advantage of her position to effectively use her expense account as her own personal piggy bank,” said Scovil.
The former CEO of the Halifax’s children’s hospital used corporate funds to pay for taxis, hotel stays for relatives, iTunes, Netflix and data charges. Kitch also used a rental car for personal use and didn’t pay parking tickets.
"The victim was a children's hospital,” said Scovil. “Hospitals are publicly funded, and also obtain significant funding through fundraising activities, obtaining additional monies from private sources. And there was a significant impact on the victim. The victim was the IWK itself and the public.”
While Kitch’s actions had a financial impact on the hospital and its donors, Scovil noted they also tarnished the reputation of the IWK.
“He acknowleged that it's not simply the hospital administration that's harmed, it's also the public itself who fund the hospital,” said Dostal.
In a statement, the chair of the IWK Health Centre’s board of directors says the board and hospital placed their trust in the justice system and respect the outcome of the legal process.
“Our focus is on the strategic priorities of the organization and the pursuit of our mission: a healthy future for the populations we serve,” said Catherine Woodman.
“We acknowledge our employees, physicians and volunteers for the commitment and exceptional care they provide to women, children, youth, and their families throughout the region. We are also deeply grateful to a very generous and supportive public in three provinces we serve.”
Kitch stepped down from her position at the IWK Health Centre in August 2017 after an independent audit found she had used her corporate credit card to bill the hospital about $47,000 in personal expenses.
Kitch paid the hospital back over $45,000 within months of her resignation.
Kitch was charged in October 2018 and went to trial in November 2021.
KITCH SEEKS BAIL AS SHE APPEALS CONVICTION
Kitch was led out of court in handcuffs and is set to spend her first night in Jail Wednesday, but she may not be behind bars for long.
Kitch could be released from custody after attending a bail hearing Thursday morning, as she seeks to appeal her conviction.
Her lawyer, Brian Greenspan, argued for a conditional sentence of house arrest, noting that the public would be paying for Kitch’s incarceration, and suggesting that house arrest can be a harsher sentence than jail time.
“One takes for instance, the five-month incarceral sentence that was imposed here, if it would be served in the community, you'd increase it. The five months might become 10 months,” said Greenspan.
"She has this fall from grace. That fall from grace can be dealt with in an effective way by an increased period of house arrest, as opposed to sending someone in her situation to jail."
The Crown has not opposed Kitch’s release.
Kitch’s defence filed a notice to appeal her fraud conviction on July 19, on the grounds that the judge “failed to explain how the use of a corporate credit card for personal expenses … was conduct which reasonable people would consider to be dishonest.”
A date for the appeal has not been scheduled at this time.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Bruce Frisko and The Canadian Press
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