The UMMS Scandal: A Search for Facts, and an Ethical Fix | WYPR

The UMMS Scandal: A Search for Facts, and an Ethical Fix

Mar 25, 2019

UMMS Board Chair Stephen Burch (r.), with now-suspended UMMS CEO Robert Chrencik, at a news briefing in Annapolis March 20.
Credit Associated Press Photo by Brian Whitte

Last week, amid news reports of self-dealing by members of the board of directors of The University of Maryland Medical System (known as UMMS), the CEO of the system, Robert Chrencik, was placed on a leave of absence while the board hired an outside firm to conduct an audit of the System’s contracting practices and its conflicts-of-interest policies.  Several board members have resigned, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who had served on the UMMS board for more than 18 years.  Other board members who currently have business relationships with the System have also been asked to take a leave of absence from the board.  

When Luke Broadwater of the Sun wrote about the allegations that Mayor Pugh and others were profiting from their seats on the board of the UMMS, reaction in Annapolis was swift, and unequivocal.  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller, and Speaker of the House Mike Busch (himself a member of the UMMS board), all condemned the practice of awarding contracts to businesses that were connected to board members.  A bill proposed by Speaker Busch is being fast-tracked through the House, and a bill introduced on the Senate side is also making its way through the legislative process .  Both bills aim to address conflicts of interest and financial disclosures by board members. 

Sen. Jill P. Carter, who represents District 41 in the MD Senate and serves on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, among others, is the sponsor of  Senate Bill 619. Her bill would prohibit the UMMS board from engaging in the kind of routine self-dealing that appears to have been prevalent at the quasi-private enterprise. Senator Carter joins us on the line from Annapolis.

And later, we consider whether the situation at the University of Maryland Medical System is unique: What should non-profit boards do to ensure that they are acting according to best practices when it comes to ethics, conflicts of interest and financial disclosures?  Tom is joined in the studio by Heather Iliff, the president and CEO of Maryland NonProfits, an association of more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations, that offers advice and training about best ethical practices in the nonprofit board room.

Doug Donavan joins us as well.  He’s an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Sun, who has been covering the University of Maryland Medical System story as it has evolved over the past week or so.