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‘Why didn’t they know?’ Maryland Senate committee postpones confirmation votes on UMMS board members

A Maryland Senate committee postponed confirmation votes of nearly 20 nominees to the University of Maryland Medical System board ― citing an unfinished audit into the self-dealing scandal that rocked the hospital network last year.

Members of the Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee are considering 18 appointees, most of whom were nominated by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, after the General Assembly last year passed sweeping reform legislation that forced all the board members to resign and reapply for their posts.

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Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Frederick County Democrat who is chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee, said that committee members were particularly concerned about three people who were nominated to return to the board despite the scandal.

“Why didn’t they know?” Young said Monday night.

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The postponement means the board members could go without a confirmation vote for several more weeks.

The board has been under intense scrutiny since March when The Baltimore Sun reported that a third of its 30 members had deals with the 13-hospital system, 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 the board in March and as mayor in May, and pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion last month.

While most new board nominees received praise from the senators, tough questions have come for the three returning members: board chairman James “Chip” DiPaula Jr., vice chairman Alexander Williams Jr., and Louis Pope, a former state GOP chairman. Senators also are concerned about whether the hospital network is fully compliant with a legally mandated audit after the state’s top legislative auditor said the hospital network was “hindering” his work.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, called the nominees “impressive candidates" with “great credentials,” but he said he wanted to see the results of the audit before green-lighting a confirmation vote.

“It’s really important the legislature have an opportunity to review the audit,” Ferguson said. “These are really important appointments and we’ve got to get them right.”

Maryland Legislative Auditor Gregory Hook said Tuesday that his office is “on schedule, consistent with the previously revised due date” for filing the report March 13 with lawmakers.

Michael Schwartzberg, a spokesman for the University of Maryland Medical System, said the hospital network "certainly respects the decisions of and processes outlined by the legislators.”

The governor’s office declined to comment.

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