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Bethania board not resigning

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The board of the embattled Bethania Group Personal Care homes will not resign over a dispute with the Manitoba government, it said in a statement Sunday.

Last week, Health Minister Theresa Oswald went public with a dispute over the re-hiring of CEO Ray Koop in violation of a government-imposed executive salary pay freeze. The province wants the Bethania Group to terminate what it believes is an illegal contract.

The board allowed Koop to retire from his $160,000 a year position July 31, collect a pre-retirement package worth nearly half his salary on Aug. 1 and start a new contract in the same job Aug. 2 with a salary increase.

"The very reason we passed Bill 6 was to achieve better accountability and transparency in the health-care system, and ensure taxpayers' money is used responsibly," Oswald said.

"We remain optimistic that the board will decide to comply with provincial law and follow the direction from Manitoba Health, and they have until April 2 to respond."

The Bethania Group receives $9.5 million in provincial funding annually.

In its statement, the board said it continues to defend its agreement with Koop, claiming " it has a moral and legal obligation to honour that contract.

"The board also appeals for public and donor support particularly if the government pursues a politicized or punitive approach."

The board said it has a responsibility to hire the best possible people in leadership positions.

"We make every effort to pay our employees fairly," the statement read. "That applies to employees in all tasks and at every level. We believe that Mr. Koop’s pay for providing service to all Bethania entities was justified by his experience, abilities and the demands of the task."

The board defended its own reputation.

"No donor money or taxpayer money or kick back money has ever gone to the Board. We serve to help our community," the statement said.

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