Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pension issue latest concern over Bethania

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NEW concerns have emerged about the embattled Bethania Group, the independently run Mennonite and Christian-centred personal care home and housing operation.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which oversees the Bethania Group's two Winnipeg personal care homes, said the concerns - which are being taken "very seriously" -- are that "appropriate pension contributions were not made for some employees' pension contributions."

The case is believed to involve the pension plan for Bethania's housing division.

The spokesperson for the provincial Health Department said the allegations and concerns were passed on Friday to the Health Employees Pension Plan (HEPP) "to ensure they were aware and investigating."

Kerry Poole, CEO of Health Employees Benefits Manitoba, which includes HEPP, said in an email Friday his organization "has identified legal matters that are now in the hands of our legal counsel, and the legal counsel of Bethania for resolution. As these matters may in fact head to court," Poole added, "I am unable to comment any further."

The latest issue only came to light "in recent days," according to the health authority spokesperson, when "individuals" came forward, following news stories on the province's audit of the Bethania Group.

The audit revealed the province's initial concern centres on Bethania Group CEO Ray Koop, and the board of directors. Investigators found a new contract between the group and Koop violated a government-imposed pay freeze.

According to the audit findings, Bethania's board of directors allowed Koop to retire from his $160,000-a-year position last July 31, collect a pre-retirement payment worth nearly half his annual salary on Aug. 1, and he was re-hired to his old job a day later.

Last month, Manitoba Health ordered the Bethania Group to terminate what it believes is an illegal contract with Koop. It also demanded the contract be voided and any illegal payments returned to the government. If it fails to do so, the province could replace Bethania's board of directors.

Koop didn't return a phone message left Friday about the latest issue, and another member of his management team declined comment.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2013 B3

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