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Senate confirms nominees to overhauled University of Maryland Medical System board after self-dealing scandal

Maryland’s Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to confirm nearly two dozen nominees to the University of Maryland Medical System board, which was overhauled last year after a self-dealing scandal rocked the hospital network and led to the resignation of Baltimore’s mayor.

Senators voted unanimously to approve all new nominees to the board.

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But three Democratic senators ― Clarence Lam of Howard County and Jill P. Carter and Mary Washington of Baltimore ― voted against the five returning members, citing a report from state auditors that said the hospital network “hindered” a probe of the system’s finances.

The Baltimore Sun reported Friday on a new report from the auditors on UMMS finances, which uncovered more financial dealings between board members and their organizations than previously known. It revealed nearly $115 million in payments to more than two dozen board members and their related businesses in recent years.

“The concerns that were raised by the audit are really serious,” said Sen. Guy Guzzone, a Howard County Democrat. “I believe the system has done a really credible job in addressing them.”

Most senators said they agreed with arguments that the hospital network needs stable leadership in place as the state responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said he was submitting a budget amendment that would restrict funds to the medical system unless the hospital network implements reform recommendations from several independent audits.

The board has been under intense scrutiny for a year, since The Sun reported a third of its 30 members had deals with the 13-hospital system they were charged with overseeing, some not competitively bid.

One of those deals was with then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat who made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling her “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the system. She resigned from its board and as mayor last year and was sentenced to three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to federal fraud conspiracy and tax evasion.

The scandal also resulted in the system’s former CEO and four other top hospital officials resigning, and the passage of sweeping reform legislation.

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The five returning board members are Chairman James “Chip” DiPaula Jr.; Vice Chairman Alexander Williams Jr.; Louis Pope, a former state GOP chairman, and businessmen Barry P. Gossett and R. Alan Butler.

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat, said those returning board members are playing a key role in reform because they “stepped up to the plate and pulled this board together.”

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