The woman who rose quickly through the ranks before her career ended abruptly at Ornge says she has been unfairly maligned because of her personal relationship with the air ambulance's former CEO.
Kelly Long, a former associate vice-president of Ornge, took issue with insinuations that her ascent had to do with the fact that she was the live-in girlfriend of founder and former chief executive officer Chris Mazza.
"I feel that I did a great job at Ornge," Ms. Long testified on Wednesday at an all-party legislative committee looking into problems at the air ambulance service. "I feel that I deserved the promotions that I received."
Ms. Long, visibly nervous under the glare of television cameras, said she met Dr. Mazza in 2005 when she was working for the summer as a water-ski instructor at a sports club. But she stressed that her résumé also includes an undergraduate degree in sociology from York University and a certificate to teach English as a second language.
She distanced herself from the controversy at Ornge over a series of private, for-profit ventures that are now part of an Ontario Provincial Police probe, and also said she had no idea Dr. Mazza was earning $1.4-million a year, making him one of the province's highest-paid public-sector employees.
Dr. Mazza never discussed with her the review the provincial auditor was doing at Ornge, which uncovered a number of problems the committee is now examining.
"We made it very clear that our personal life and our professional life remained separate," Ms. Long testified.
She was initially hired in December, 2005, by Pathway Group, a public relations and lobbying firm. Kelly Mitchell, a partner at Pathway, testified on Wednesday that he hired Ms. Long for an administrative job at the suggestion of Dr. Mazza, who introduced her as a good friend.
"In my view, she was very good. She was bright and articulate," Mr. Mitchell said, adding he could not recall seeing her résumé.
By December, 2006, Ms. Long was on the payroll at Ornge, where her growing responsibilities included managing relations with hospitals and other health-care institutions. Ms. Long said her annual salary doubled to $120,000 during her six years at Ornge.
Pathway itself billed Ornge $380,000 for consulting services, Mr. Mitchell testified. As well, he earned another $18,000 as a board member of six Ornge private, for-profit companies in 2011. Mr. Mitchell resigned from these boards in September, 2011, to join the board of Ornge itself, which receives $150-million a year in government funding.
"I was happy to resign from the private side," Mr. Mitchell testified, adding that he found the organizational structure for the private entities "exceptionally complicated."
He did not last long on the Ornge board either. He resigned last December, shortly after an emergency board meeting where he first learned that Dr. Mazza was earning $1.4-million a year.
"I thought the house of cards was falling," Mr. Mitchell testified. "I just thought the task was something I wasn't up to."
The committee also heard from Don Guy, Premier Dalton McGuinty's former chief of staff, who had a retainer with Fasken Martineau, Ornge's former legal counsel. Mr. Guy testified that he advised that Ornge co-operate with Health Minister Deb Matthews by disclosing Dr. Mazza's salary, saying it was "the only way to go." He said he has never discussed Ornge with the Premier.