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Former IWK CEO sentenced to 5 months in jail for fraud

Tracy Kitch, the former CEO of the IWK Health Center in Halifax, was sentenced Wednesday to five months in a Nova Scotia jail followed by a 12-month probation period for fraud over $5,000.

In handing down his sentence in a Halifax courtroom, Judge Paul Scovil said Kitch “took advantage of her position to effectively use her expense account as her own personal piggy bank” — actions he said required a sentence that creates a strong public deterrent and denunciation.

“This was a highly paid civil servant who chose not to follow clear provisions for expense accounts at the IWK children’s hospital,” said Scovil.

“She ignored those provisions to benefit herself financially.”

Crown attorney Peter Dostal speaks to reporters. (CBC)

Under the terms of her probation, Kitch is prohibited from seeking, obtaining or continuing employment or a volunteer position in any capacity that involves having authority over real property or money during the 12-month period.

Kitch was convicted in February following a trial in provincial court that spanned late 2021 and early 2022. She was charged after an investigation by the hospital in 2017 showed she spent $47,000 in charges deemed personal to a corporate credit card, much of which was related to travel back and forth to her home in Ontario where her family lived. She paid the hospital all the money.

Reporting by CBC News first brought attention to Kitch’s expense claims.

Outside the courtroom, Crown attorney Peter Dostal said he was pleased with the sentence, which he said recognizes the seriousness of the offense by someone in Kitch’s position.

“We’re not here for just the dollar amount,” he told reporters.

“We’re here because of the exploitation of the position, and we feel that the five-month sentence adequately reflects that seriousness.”

Jacqueline King and Brian Greenspan, lawyers for Tracy Kitch, speak to reporters outside a Halifax courtroom. (Paul Porier/CBC)

Kitch’s defense team argued that a conditional sentence with time served through house arrest could just as successfully serve the purpose of sending a strong public message.

Brian Greenspan told reporters the Supreme Court of Canada has made clear that “the public and people ought not to think that house arrest is child’s play, that house arrest is not a serious imposition on someone’s liberty” and that it can achieve the same aims as jail time in certain cases.

There are other considerations, too, he said.

“Every time someone goes to jail, the community pays for it. The community has a cost to that and if it doesn’t achieve anything greater than you can achieve by house arrest, then why bother?”

Plans to appeal

Before being sentenced, Kitch told the court she worked closely with her lawyers on their sentencing submission, but made no other comments.

Kitch is scheduled to serve her sentence at the Burnside jail, although she is expected to be released on bail following a hearing on Thursday.

She is appealing her conviction.

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