Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller called for reforms of the University of Maryland Medical System board after reports in The Sun revealed several unpaid board members, including Mayor Catherine Pugh, have conducted business with the organization.
The paper found nine members of the 30-person board have contracts with hospitals under the school’s umbrella, including for goods and services such as civil engineering and pest control, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. In Pugh’s case, the organization paid $500,000 for 100,000 copies of the mayor’s self-published children’s books promoting fitness called “Healthy Holly.”
Pugh disclosed the sale in 2017 and said she made a profit of $100,000. She later told The Sun her share was less than that.
In a statement today, Hogan said it was “disconcerting” and called on members to remove conflicts of interest or resign.
“These transactions for personal profit damage the public trust,” he said. “It is not just unseemly, it is appalling, and I have called for an immediate and full review.”
The governor joined Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, who both have positions on the board, in calling for UMMS executives to meet with the political leaders and “provide answers regarding these arrangements.” Miller has delegated his position to the Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery County), chair of the Senate’s budget committee.
For his part, Busch said the deals were not disclosed to other board members.
“Candidly, I was shocked,” he told The Sun. “I’m outraged the University of Maryland Medical board had individuals on it who were greasing their whole palms by getting contracts with the medical [system]. It was never, ever brought up in a meeting that there were these contracts.”
Robert Chrencik, CEO of the system that includes 150 clinics and 13 hospitals, employs 25,000 people and receives state funds, defended the deals in an interview with the newspaper.
“These are business relationships between a trustee and an organization,” he said. “There’s no intent to do something that’s inappropriate.”
These issues came to light after Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) introduced a bill that would explicitly make it illegal for board members to make profits from the hospitals they oversee.
Carter has said business deals like these could cause board members to not scrutinize the hospital closely enough, ultimately costing taxpayers more money.
The medical system, meanwhile, has opposed the bill, arguing the contracts are legal and that the board would “deprive UMMS of expertise” if members are forced to resign.
Pugh told The Sun in an interview that she isn’t opposing Carter’s legislation, noting, “We’ll follow whatever the legislature decides.”
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