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‘Healthy Holly’ era leader at UMMS gets $2.6 million in final year as CEO

The former CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, who resigned in 2019 amid a scandal involving self-dealing among board members, was paid more than $2.6 million in his final year on the job.

The total seemed on par with previous years’ compensation for Robert A. Chrencik, who worked for the university hospital system for 35 years, becoming president and CEO in 2008 during another leadership shakeup.

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The pay information was included in forms nonprofit entities file to the IRS, which became public this year.

UMMS officials wouldn’t say whether Chrencik continued to collect a salary or severance the next fiscal year. Spokesman Michael Schwartzberg said that information would be included “in future IRS filings, as required.”

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Robert A. Chrencik, the former president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, shown in this file photo, received $2.6 million in compensation in the 2019 fiscal year, the year he resigned amid a self-dealing scandal on the system's board.
Robert A. Chrencik, the former president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, shown in this file photo, received $2.6 million in compensation in the 2019 fiscal year, the year he resigned amid a self-dealing scandal on the system's board. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)

Chrencik, 69, went on paid leave in March 2019 and resigned about a month later as lawmakers and federal officials investigated deals UMMS board members signed with their own companies, including $500,000 in no-bid contracts for amateurish children’s books written by former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who served on the board.

After reporting in The Baltimore Sun on the “Healthy Holly” books, Pugh resigned as mayor and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion stemming from the scheme. She reported to prison last year.

The controversy resulted in a shakeup of the UMMS leadership and board and led the state legislature to add restrictions on contracting by the board for the 13-hospital system, which is not a state entity but receives state funding.

In a statement, UMMS confirmed the pay included in the IRS forms was accurate for Chrencik, who left about two months before the end of fiscal 2019.

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“Mr. Chrencik, and multiple senior executives leading the System and identified in this IRS filing, resigned from the University of Maryland Medical System over two years ago and no longer have a role within the organization,” the statement said. “Compensation for board members reflected in Form 990 accurately reflects the finding of multiple, publicly available audits and reports, carried out by UMMS and other independent bodies, including the Maryland General Assembly.”

At the time, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan supported changes to bolster accountability. He said through a spokesman Friday that the episode is now behind the system.

“With new leadership, we’ve come a long way over the last two years, from when the system was under a cloud of controversy, to it being one of our most important partners in the fight against COVID-19,” said Mike Ricci, Hogan’s spokesman.

The Sun was unable to find contact information for Chrencik.

Still, not everyone believes much has changed at UMMS, including Sen. Jill Carter, the Baltimore Democrat who helped to spark the initial UMMS board investigation with proposed legislation to broaden contracting opportunities for minorities.

She said board members are gone but the largest contract from the era is still held by the company headed by a former influential board member, former state Sen. Francis “Frank” Kelly Jr.

UMMS signed a new contract for insurance services from Kelly Benefit Strategies, a division of Kelly’s Baltimore County firm Kelly & Associates Insurance Group, for an undisclosed sum last July. The firm already had collected about $16 million in contracts from the system over several years.

“Mr. Kelly isn’t on the board anymore, but he’s still benefiting,” Carter said. “The former board members and former leaders still got paid. It’s as if the system said we had our moment and removed people, but only former Mayor Catherine Pugh really paid a price.”

After Chrencik resigned, Dr. Mohan Suntha was named CEO. He had been president and CEO of the system’s flagship University of Maryland Medical Center. The 2019 IRS filing showed he was paid about $1.9 million.

Chrencik had replaced system CEO Edmond F. Notebaert, who resigned in 2008 after a tumultuous stretch that included another board shakeup. Notebaert received a pay package worth about $7.8 million, sparking further controversy.

About half of Chrencik’s pay was salary, with most of the rest made up of bonuses and incentive pay. Chrencik earned just under $2.6 million in fiscal years 2018 and 2016, and about $4.2 million in fiscal 2017 due to bonuses.

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