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New law overhauls UMMS board, toughens ethics rules

Stephen Burch, chairman of the board of the University of Maryland Medical System, talks to reporters on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 in Annapolis, Md., after meeting with Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders to discuss concerns about potential conflicts of interest with nearly a third of the system's board. Robert Chrencik, the president and chief executive officer of the system, is standing by Burch. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Stephen Burch, chairman of the board of the University of Maryland Medical System, talks to reporters on March 20, 2019 in Annapolis after meeting with Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders to discuss concerns about potential conflicts of interest with nearly a third of the system’s board. Robert Chrencik, the president and chief executive officer of the system, is standing by Burch. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

ANNAPOLIS — Members of the University of Maryland Medical System board will now be subject to tougher ethics and disclosure requirements under a bill that was signed into law Thursday.

The law, which takes effect immediately, gives Gov. Larry Hogan the power to sweep clean the embattled board following the disclosure last month of numerous questionable financial dealings involving current members, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

The bill was one of nearly 200 pieces of legislation signed into law by Hogan, including creation of a police force for Johns Hopkins and a resolution honoring journalists that was sparked by the murder of five Annapolis Capital employees last summer.

The medical system bill imposes stricter ethics and disclosure standards on board members of the medical system. The new law will eventually result in replacing all current members, prohibit members from engaging in sole-source contracting with the medical system and require them to submit annual financial disclosures.

“I’m excited about it,” said Sen. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore city and sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. “It means a lot. Not just for the board of (the University of Maryland Medical System) but for all other entities that are similar.”

The law requires that members of the board resign their positions in staggered terms starting July 1. Another one-third of the board will resign Oct. 1 and the balance are required to resign by Jan. 1.  Current members would be required to reapply should they wish to continue on the board. Neither Hogan nor the Senate, which must confirm appointments to the board going forward, would be bound to keep current members who reapply.

Hogan also signed an identical House bill sponsored by Speaker Michael Busch. It was the last bill sponsored by Busch, who served as a board member for 16 years.

A spokesman for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said the longtime leader of the Senate was most interested in preserving some institutional knowledge during the phased-in transition period.

‘There is clearly mutual alignment among all interested parties to optimal, long-term governance and accountability,” said John Ashworth, interim president and chief executive officer for the hospital system. “I am committed to making this happen during my tenure as interim president and CEO.”

Carter introduced her bill earlier this year after concerns were brought to her about how contracts with the system were awarded to some board members while locking out other interested businesses. The bill sparked a review of contracts that revealed that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh received $500,000 in a no-contract arrangement with UMMS for a series of “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Almost one-third of the medical system’s 30 board members were found to have some sort of financial relationship with UMMS that benefited them or their companies.

Pugh and two others have since resigned from the board. A number of others, including medical system President and CEO Robert Chrencik, have taken leaves of absence. Similarly, Pugh has taken a leave of absence to recover from pneumonia. Her leave came at the same time that reviews, including one by the Office of the State Prosecutor, got underway.

The bill signing Thursday was the first since the session ended on April 8. The traditional morning-after-session bill signing was canceled after the death of Busch, the longest-serving leader of the House of Delegates in state history.

Other bills signed into law include:

  • Legislation authorizing Johns Hopkins to create a private police force to patrol the campuses of the university and medical system and surrounding areas. The law imposes accountability measures, including body camera use and review board membership requirements. The law goes into effect July 1.
  • House and Senate resolutions naming June 28 “Freedom of the Press Day.” The date marks the anniversary of the 2018 shooting in the newsroom of the Annapolis Capital in which five employees — John McNamara, 56; Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65; Gerald Fischman, 61; and Rebecca Smith, 34 — were murdered.
  • Changing the name of the University of Maryland University College to University of Maryland Global Campus. That law takes effect July 1.
  • Creation of the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Bowie State University, in consultation with the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, will staff the commission, which must provide an interim report on Sept. 1, 2020, and a final report on Dec. 1, 2020. The commission must hold public hearings in areas where racially motivated lynching was reported. The commission will be tasked with making recommendations on addressing and reconciling affected communities. The bill takes effect on June 1 and terminates July 1, 2022.

 

 


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