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WBAL: Comptroller Franchot speaks on UMMS scandal, as bills to overhaul move forward


Bills overhauling the University of Maryland Medical System Board are moving through the State House. Both the House and Senate are considering legislation designed to make sure these kinds of self-deals never happen again.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot didn't mince words about the scandal.

"I think the governor, as I said, (is) spot on with asking the state prosecutor to get the facts because one sleazy deal after another appears on a daily basis," said Franchot. "This is the only way we are going to get to the bottom of it unfortunately."

Franchot is referring to the scandal rocking the UMMS Board. Eight of its members face scrutiny for their business relationships with the hospital system.

This includes a multiyear children's book agreement with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. She resigned from the board and issued a public apology. The UMMS Board hired California firm Nygren Consulting, LLC to investigate the deals. The comptroller said he's not impressed.

"The state prosecutor, thank God is involved. This independent consulting firm that's been hired by the system from California, I mean forgive me, forgive me, take a look at that consulting companies client list and tell me that that is an independent look at anything," said Franchot.

Meanwhile, the state Senate is now putting finishing touches on legislation to overhaul the UMMS Board.

"My concern is, if you have a board member who has participated in a competitive bid and gotten the best bid, the lowest bid most beneficial to the hospital, does that mean they can't be a vendor?" asked Sen. Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel County.

"If you were in the competitive process and you won that, there is nothing in here, this bill that would have any impact. What we are trying to get at is the sole source non-competitive process with a board member," said Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery County.

The Senate bill is slightly different than the House measure. Provisions include requiring financial disclosures to be published online. It strengthens the audit requirements and mates that the governor replace the board. The bill mandates that the governor replace one-third of the board in July, a one-third in October and one-third in January.

Although the House and Senate versions of the legislation are slightly different, there is universal agreement a reform bill will soon be on the governor's desk.

The bill to reform the UMMS Board passed in the House of Delegates. A statement from Delegate Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel County in full, "Legislation to reform the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors received final passage in the House of Delegates this afternoon. The bill passes as headlines abound with the ongoing saga of scandal and self-dealing amongst some of the board members, including Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh.

“In all my years in public service, I have never seen a more blatant and disgusting violation of the people’s trust than the acts committed by some of the members of this Board,” said Delegate Nic Kipke. “While I believe the members of the board must account individually for their actions, I’m supporting this legislation as it will help the University of Maryland Medical System move forward with a new and more thoroughly-vetted Board with strong safeguards to make sure this never happens again.”

"The legislation reconstitutes the Board membership and prohibits its members from intentionally using their positions for their private gain or that of another. It prohibits State and local elected officials from serving on the Board. By May 31, 2019 the Board must adopt a conflict of interest policy that must be sent to the Governor, House Speaker, and Senate President. The bill also requires each Board member to submit an annual disclosure of financial interest to the Health Services Cost Review Commission. By May 15, 2019, UMMS must employ an independent entity to conduct an audit and a copy of the audit must be submitted to the Governor, House Speaker, and Senate President by December 31, 2019. The bill is Emergency Legislation and will go into immediate effect once signed by the Governor."

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