There Are Some Red Faces at ORNGE

Update: see previous posts – December 27, 2011 ORNGE Hires New Spin Doctor, December 26, 2011 Doctor’s Salary Quadruples In Four (4) Years to $1.4 Million, December 20, 2011 Wanted: Paramedics for Emergency Flights on ORNGE’s Air Ambulance Helicopters, December 6, 2011 Orangeh Gonna Tell The Taxpayers How Much of Their Money You’ve Spent on Yourself?

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I guess if the Ontario Provincial government is handing off $150 million a year to a company or series of companies and preaching austerity to everyone else (including all government employees and anyone that it funds with taxpayer’s money), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that ORNGE air ambulance service is using over $600,000.00 to enhance the CV’s of their executives.  While society was frowning upon the attitude, arrogance and sense of entitlement that major corporations exhibited in the U.S., while so many other people suffered since 2008, corporations in Canada were using taxpayer monies to further promote themselves and to pad their Curriculum Vitae (CV).

The ORNGE air ambulance service has recently spent more than $600,000 on university business degrees for top executives.

In the last year, at least seven ORNGE officials have received or are enrolled in an executive MBA from a top Canadian business school.

An ORNGE spokesman defended the practice, saying the executives are “high performers” and funding the business degrees helps ORNGE “attract and retain top quality talent.”

ORNGE, which employs 400 people, receives $150 million in public funding each year.

One of the executives, Maria Renzella, was enrolled at the Kellogg-Schulich school at York University but spent part of her time in Germany and Belgium taking courses on “European business practices.”

She also took in the sights, according to biographical information on Renzella, the acting president of ORNGE’s for-profit arm, ORNGE Global.

“Brussels was beautiful,” Renzella said. “The restaurants were great. The waffles were fantastic and the chocolate was unbelievable.”

She also noted in her bio that she partied on a boat and toured a castle.

Renzella graduated with a degree — called an EMBA, for executive masters of business administration — in 2010. It can be done while working, and costs $110,000.

Most other executives who took the EMBA course did it at the University of Western Ontario’s highly respected Richard Ivey business school, where ORNGE founder Chris Mazza took a similar degree before ORNGE was created in 2005. It is not known how Mazza’s was paid for.

Among the Richard Ivey school graduates is Kelly Long, a close personal friend of Mazza’s who recently became ORNGE’s director of health care relations. Long is a former account manager at an elite water ski camp near Newmarket. Mazza is a watersports enthusiast, and an ORNGE charity briefly owned a high-end boat.

Long received her EMBA degree in 2011. Tuition at the Richard Ivey school is $90,000.

Another recent graduate is Tom Lepine, a former paramedic who is acting president of the non-profit ORNGE. Joining Lepine as a Richard Ivey school graduate is Jennifer Tracey, ORNGE’s chief public relations official and a former strategic adviser to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The Star approached ORNGE three weeks ago with a list of seven employees that the Star had learned had received the degree or, in one case, were enrolled in the program. In addition to those already named in the story, the Star’s list included Nancy Mulroney, Carie Anne Brunet and Steve Farquhar. All are ORNGE executives.

The Star has sought comment from all seven, and Mazza. The only response we have received to date on the EMBA issue is from ORNGE spokesman James MacDonald, who responded to the Star’s list of seven.

“ORNGE provided education opportunities for these staff members to pursue MBAs. This enables ORNGE to compete with other private sector organizations to attract and retain top quality talent.”

MacDonald said what the air ambulance service is doing is in line with other “broader public sector organizations.”

The only comment MacDonald made regarding a specific graduate was in response to questions on how Long, a close friend of Mazza’s, had wound up working at ORNGE. MacDonald said she was originally hired as a communications officer and the job was posted publicly. Long’s resumé shows she has a bachelors degree from York, worked as a waitress, then at the waterski clinic. She had a short stint at a public relations firm, then came to ORNGE.

Renzella, now thrust into the role of president with Mazza on sick leave, said in an online posting that the European part of her EMBA was very helpful.

“Overall, what I learned in Brussels about the EU and the European Economic Community (EEC) was huge for me. Coming into the course, I didn’t understand exactly how the EU worked and I didn’t understand how the euro came about or how it really works.”

Documents obtained by the Star reveal that the for-profit ORNGE wants to “leverage” its publicly funded assets and goodwill to start a series of for-profit international businesses dealing with high-end clients who need special medical insurance.

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3 comments

  1. Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

  2. Disgusting abuse of tax payer money. Chris Mazza should be prosecuted for putting tax payer money in his own pockets.
    Enough with porks being handed out to these scums and bravo to the Star for exposing them!

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