Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wrongful dismissal alleged in lawsuit

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THE former director of the Middlechurch personal care home in West St. Paul, fired in March, is suing for wrongful dismissal and defamation.

Laurie Kuivenhoven is seeking unspecified damages in a suit filed against the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the Manitoba government, the provincial ombudsman and her former employer.

Kuivenhoven, 54, took a medical leave from her job as executive director of Middlechurch Care Home in September 2012, following the release of an ombudsman's investigation alleging mismanagement and nepotism. When she attempted to return in March, she was terminated.

In a statement of claim filed with the Court of Queen's Bench, Kuivenhoven alleges the WRHA, the provincial government and Middlechurch "acted maliciously, negligently, and in bad faith."

The allegations have not been proven in court. Statements of defence have not been filed. A court date on the dispute has not been set.

Kuivenhoven's suit alleges officials were aware the ombudsman's report contained several errors and misrepresentations about her actions as executive director but chose to repeat them publicly as if the entire report were true, which ultimately led to her termination.

The ombudsman's report said Kuivenhoven hired her husband's and her brother-in-law's companies to do 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. The care home board appointees, including a former forensic accountant from the RCMP and two other accountants, were replaced by the provincial government in November 2012.

Kuivenhoven began working at Middlechurch in 1974, was groomed for advancement and promoted to successive senior positions until she was appointed executive director in 2005. Kuivenhoven was earning $125,000 annually when she was terminated.

The suit alleges Kuivenhoven's employment contract stipulated that if she were to retire or to be terminated, she would continue to receive a severance salary of $130,000 for several years, and her severance package would include continued benefits and entitlements, vacation pay and an additional payout of four days' pay for every year of service.

Kuivenhoven is asking the court to declare she was wrongfully dismissed, that terms of her employment contract were breached and that defamatory comments made about her by the defendants "were made maliciously and/or in bad faith."

The suit is also asking the court to award punitive damages based on the actions of the defendants, which are alleged to be "harsh, vindictive, reprehensible and malicious."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2013 B1

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