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Harrell, longtime judge, calls UMMS board seat a ‘new challenge’

Harrell, longtime judge, calls UMMS board seat a ‘new challenge’

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Retired Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. said Monday that he had been looking for “a new challenge” when Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him last week to a reconstituted University of Maryland Medical System board recently beset by allegations of sweetheart business deals between now-former board members and the hospital network.

“I opened my big mouth and somebody called me on it,” Harrell said of his appointment. He is among 11 newly named UMMS board members.

“It is going to be quite a challenge to work with the rest of the folks, the new folks, to restore public trust and confidence,” he said. “But that’s really the task ahead.”

The appointments followed the disclosure of now-former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s deal under which the board approved the purchase of $500,000 worth of her “Healthy Holly” children’s books. The disclosure spurred Pugh’s resignation from the board in March and as mayor last month.

The board had also approved millions of dollars in payments to then-board member Francis X. Kelly’s insurance company for its underwriting of services to the system and affiliated hospitals, according to an investigative report.

Harrell, who served as a Maryland appellate judge starting in 1991, said that he has a “steep learning curve” when it comes to health care administration but that he is well-versed on ethical obligations.

Harrell specifically cited the prohibition on self-dealing, an ethical lapse that led the Court of Appeals to disbar many attorneys when he served on the state’s top court.

“I have more than a passing familiarity with administering a rigorous ethical set of rules,” Harrell said. “On that, I am not coming in cold.”

An investigative report by Nygren Consulting, which was hired by the hospital network, concluded last week that Pugh’s book deal appeared to have developed with Robert Chrencik, then-chief executive officer of the system, and was not presented to the board or to any of its committees.

Kelly’s insurance contracts were for the most part known by board members, the report said. When agreed to in 2012, the contracts were considered to be fair value.

But, since 2012, none of the contracts have been rebid. The system is preparing a request for proposal for a new bid of the contracts, but the services will continue into the next fiscal year while that proposal is crafted, the report said.

Harrell, 73, served on the intermediate Court of Special Appeals from 1991 until his elevation to the high court in 1999. He retired in 2015 upon reaching Maryland’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70 but has continued hearing cases by special assignment when Court of Appeals judges recuse themselves.

However, Harrell said he would step down for good in August 2020 when he will be about “a year shy of 30 years of being a judge.”

At that point, he said, “You start feeling, ‘Been there, done that,’” adding, however, that he was open to “new challenges.”

In addition to Harrell, Hogan appointed 10 others to the UMMS board:

  • Elisa Basnight, senior vice president of supply chain for the American Red Cross;
  • Kathleen A. Birrane, a member of the insurance sector and the litigation practice group at DLA Piper;
  • Joseph A. Ciotola Jr., health officer for the Queen Anne’s County Department of Health and medical director for the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services;
  • Matthew Clark, Hogan’s chief of staff, who will serve as the governor’s designee on the board;
  • Wanda Queen Draper, former executive director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore;
  • Jason Frankl, senior managing director of FTI Consulting Inc.;
  • Rear Admiral Joyce M. Johnson, DO, MA USPHS (ret.), a physician who served as surgeon general in the U.S. Coast Guard;
  • Bonnie Phipps, senior vice president and group operating executive for Ascension Health;
  • Joseph T.N. Suarez, director and executive adviser for community partnerships with Booz Allen Hamilton; and
  • John T. Williams, chairman and CEO of Jamison Door Co.

The board also elected James C. “Chip” DiPaula Jr. as chair and retired U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. as vice chair.

“We regret the actions and poor decisions which have jeopardized confidence in the System, and are committed to adopting best practices for governance, management, and operations to earn the trust of our Maryland stakeholders,” DiPaula said in a statement last week. “UMMS is a large and diverse system with a noble mission and we look forward to fulfilling our goal of providing world class health care in Maryland.”

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