The last two days of revelations about the University of Maryland Medical System’s contracting practices with members of its board have raised more questions than they have answered. We certainly support the efforts by Gov. Larry Hogan, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller to demand audits and broaden reform legislation proposed by Sen. Jill P. Carter. But there’s more information UMMS and Mayor Catherine Pugh — a beneficiary of the system’s cozy contracts — ought to be able to provide to the public now. If they can't, that’s an even bigger problem.
» On Tuesday, UMMS board member James A. Stoltesz released a statement providing details about the civil engineering contract his company had with the system, worth $100,000 in 2018. He said the contract was awarded under competitive bidding five years before he joined the board, that it is almost complete, and that he has “never participated in any board matter involving my company or my contract.” We thank him for speaking up. Why have the other board members with system contracts not done the same? (Former state Sen. Francis X. Kelly Jr.’s company, the Kelly Group, has released a statement defending its arrangements as aboveboard and saying some of its business was with system hospitals before they joined UMMS, but that leaves many questions unanswered.)
» Did any of the board members disclose their business relationships to the other members of the board? Are the arrangements mentioned in any board minutes? Did the board ever discuss matters related to any of the members contracts? If so, did the members in question recuse themselves, and how? Did they remain in the room for any such conversations or did they leave?
» Also on Tuesday, John W. Dillon and Robert L. Pevenstein resigned from the board. Mr. Dillon reported $13,000 a month in income in 2017 and 2018 for his health care consulting company from UMMS for work on a “capital campaign and strategic planning.” Mr. Pevenstein reported that his information technology firm received more than $150,000 from UMMS in 2017, including $108,000 in pay for himself, and that his son was paid more than $100,000 by the system in 2018. What is the status of their business relationships with the system?
» On Wednesday, Mayor Pugh provided more details about her arrangement to sell her “Healthy Holly” books to UMMS. She said she approached the system with samples of her book in 2010 or 2011, and the system was interested in their mission to combat childhood obesity. She had at that point been on the board for a decade and was a state senator serving on the committee that handled UMMS-related legislation. Who approved the purchase? Was it a standing arrangement that any time she wrote a new “Healthy Holly” book the system would buy 20,000 copies at $5 each, or was each one considered on its merits?
» Ms. Pugh said she returned the last $100,000 payment from the system because she is still finishing her next installment of the “Healthy Holly” series. Was it customary for the system to pay for the books before they were written?
» And finally, where is Holly? Mayor Pugh said Wednesday that she believed that she sent 21,000 copies of the books to the Baltimore City school system, 8,700 of which, the system confirms, are sitting in a warehouse. Given the 80,000 total copies that have been printed (not 100,000, as previously thought, since “Healthy Holly: Walking With My Family” is still in the works), that leaves 59,000 copies unaccounted for. Ms. Pugh says she doesn’t know where all the books have gone but that they mostly went to schools and day care centers. Who does know where the books went? Does UMMS? Does anyone have any records of this?
Until we get some more answers about the distribution, we have to consider Healthy Holly a missing person. Baltimoreans, if you’ve seen her, let us know. She’s an African-American girl of indeterminate age who likes jumping rope, eats lots of fruit and vegetables and has a younger brother named Herbie. Parents of Baltimore, have your kids brought home a book about Holly? Day care center owners, if you’ve gotten a shipment of them, please speak up. Principals from outside the city public school system, have you been handing out Healthy Holly books? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to know where those books are.
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