05/02/2012 07:45 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Former Ornge exec defends rapid rise in company

A former associate vice-president of Ornge told a legislative committee Wednesday that it was “unfair” to suggest that her advancement in the air ambulance company was the result of her relationship with its former CEO.

Kelly Long defended her rapid rise at the company, which was run by her boyfriend, Chris Mazza.

Long began working at a consulting company that was doing business with Ornge in January 2006. By the end of that year, she was working directly for Ornge as a communications officer.

When she and Mazza were terminated from Ornge last December, Long was an associate vice-president at the company.

“The media is insinuating that I rose quickly because of my relationship or my friendship with Dr. Mazza,” Long told the committee.

“I think that’s unfair,” she said, arguing that she deserved the promotions she received.

After testifying, Long walked briskly out of Queen’s Park and declined to speak to reporters.

Consultant says he wasn’t pressured to hire Long

Earlier Wednesday, a former consultant to Ornge denied that he hired Long because he was pressured into it.

Kelly Mitchell, who also sat on Ornge's board of directors, acknowledged Wednesday that Mazza asked him to consider his girlfriend for a job at Mitchell's consulting company. That's the job Long had before she moved over to Ornge.

At the time, Mitchell's company Pathway Group counted Ornge as one of the biggest clients, paying his firm about $400,000 over seven years.

But Mitchell says Mazza didn't pressure him to hire Long, whose previous experience included water-ski instructor and waitress.

Caplan didn’t know Ornge was ‘rogue agency’

On Wednesday morning, David Caplan, the former Ontario health minister, told the legislative committee that Ornge was a “rogue agency,” though he didn’t know that when he was minister.

“I'm not pleased at all with what went on at Ornge. However, I can state categorically that during my time as minister, I did not see these kind of red flags,” he said.

Caplan said that Mazza was at one point making $1.4 million, a salary that was three times what CEOs of similar agencies were receiving.

Caplan did not run in the last provincial election and now is the vice-chairman of Global Public Affairs, a government relations and strategic communications firm. He served as the Ontario health minister from June 2008 to October 2009.