Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Care home fires director after damning investigation

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THE executive director of the Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg, who was mired in controversy over alleged financial-management irregularities, has been dismissed.

Laurie Kuivenhoven's return last week from a leave of absence was brief. Her last day was Friday.

"She went off on disability leave last summer. This month, she informed the employer that she was able to begin a graduated return to work. They responded by firing her," said her lawyer, Grant Mitchell. He vowed to take legal action.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority would only confirm Kuivenhoven no longer works at the Middlechurch facility.

The WRHA audited the Middlechurch care home, which has almost 200 residents. The provincial ombudsman's office followed up with its own investigation. The report, released last summer, alleged numerous financial irregularities.

"My heart goes out to her," said Bob Paquin, a former Winnipeg police detective who was on the seven-person Middlechurch board, which was suspended last summer.

"Here's a woman who gave 38 years to the care home, who gave her whole life," Paquin said. "She started there when she was 15 years old. Through her ingenuity -- she inherited a debt of $1.5 million when she became CEO in 2005 -- she not only maintained the facility, she improved it."

That included refurbishing the care home at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars and paying off the $1.5-million debt, Paquin said.

The report from the ombudsman's investigation was damning, alleging mismanagement and nepotism.

It said Kuivenhoven hired her husband's and her brother-in-law's companies for renovations at Middlechurch, she owned 50 per cent of her husband's company and the work was often not open to tender.

The report said the board of directors was negligent for letting Kuivenhoven do this. In addition to Paquin, the board included a former forensic accountant from the RCMP and two other accountants. However, the ombudsman determined the board was not aware Kuivenhoven owned half her husband's company.

The report said the board knew Kuivenhoven's relatives were getting repeat jobs at the home. From 2007 on, her husband's company submitted 217 invoices for payment, for a total of $435,572. Her brother-in-law's company submitted 74 invoices, for a total of $98,406.

The province could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. Kuivenhoven referred all questions to her lawyer, who gave a brief response via email.

"The dismissal is wrongful, and we will pursue a fair remedy. The courts will decide whether the dismissal was wrongful or not," Mitchell said.

The care home is in the Middlechurch community, just beyond the Perimeter Highway on Main Street (Highway 9) in West St. Paul. It receives about $10 million a year from the province.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2013 A3

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