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Records show lavish spending by Ornge chief executive

FILE PHOTO: Former Ornge CEO Chris Mazza, accompanied by his lawyer Roger Yachetti during his testimony before a legislative committee July 18, 2012 in Toronto.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Former Ornge chief executive officer Chris Mazza indulged in taxpayer-funded trips around the globe, spending lavishly on everything from a $250 massage at a five-star hotel in Brazil to a $58 lobster burger. But no expense was too small, not even $3 for a parking meter or $1.50 for Tic Tacs.

Between 2005 and 2007 alone, Dr. Mazza's expenses totalled $121,210, according to 3,000 pages of records released by the Ontario government Friday afternoon. He even billed taxpayers $250 an hour to attend board of directors meetings at the embattled air ambulance service.

These payments were in addition to his annual salary of $1.4-million plus a stipend totalling $2.2-million for providing paramedic services during his six years at the helm of Ornge.

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"It's just disgusting," Health Minister Deb Matthews said in an interview. "I'm appalled. I'm terribly disappointed, but I cannot say that I'm surprised."

Ms. Matthews cleaned house at Ornge last year, replacing the entire board of directors. Dr. Mazza was terminated last February. He and his lawyer did not return messages on Friday.

Ms. Matthews has sent a letter to the new board, instructing directors to recover "every penny" of taxpayers' money that might have been spent inappropriately. Copies of the expense records have been turned over to the Ontario Provincial Police, which is conducting a criminal investigation into for-profit entities created by Ornge.

The expense records were also to be tabled at a legislative committee probing multimillion-dollar contracts and questionable business practices at Ornge. But with the Ontario legislature prorogued since last October, all business has ground to a halt.

Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees dubbed Dr. Mazza "First Class Chris" on Friday. "There are very few people in this province who can afford the lifestyle he afforded himself, compliments of the Ontario taxpayers," he said in an interview.

Highlights include:

$5,940 for a five-night stay at the Copacabana Palace in Brazil in 2007.

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$2,319, including $14 for cashews, for two nights at the Park Plaza Hotel in New York City.

$77.36 for dinner at Milestones in Toronto with Kelly Long, his girlfriend and former Ornge employee.

Dr. Mazza also ensured that other senior executives enjoyed some of the perks. Ornge hired five limousines to drive senior executives to Dr. Mazza's home for a dinner in November, 2006, at a cost of $797. Ornge also spent $357 at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, stocking up on Grey Goose vodka and other alcoholic beverages for the occasion.

And for an employee's new baby – a boy, according to the invoice from Twinkle Toes – Dr. Mazza expensed $142 for a gift.

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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