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How the Pugh/UMMS scandal was rooted in privatization and lax ethics rules

Accountabilityby Fern Shen2:06 pmMar 21, 20190

Chrencik, at the center of the UMMS “self-dealing” scandal, placed on leave

An “outside independent” review will scrutinize the University of Maryland Medical System board’s “contracting relationships,” its chairman says

Above: Robert Chrencik has been president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System since 2008. (bucknell.edu)

Robert A. Chrencik, University of Maryland Medical System president and chief executive, has been placed on temporary leave amid the contracting irregularities that have rocked both UMMS and the Maryland political class since they was first disclosed last week.

Chrencik, as The Brew reported on Tuesday, has been a driving force behind the privatization and expansion of the hospital network since he took over as CEO in 2008.

Now his management style is being scrutinized in the wake of the disclosure that members of the UMMS board – including Mayor Catherine Pugh – have prospered from lucrative business deals with UMMS hospitals.

Today’s announcement was made in a statement by UMMS Board Chair Stephen A. Burch.

Chrencik’s leave of absence begins next Monday, March 25.  John Ashworth, Senior Vice President of Network Development for UMMS and Associate Dean at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, will act as interim President and CEO.

“At the request of Mr. Burch and during an emergency Board meeting called today, the Board unanimously voted to engage an outside, independent accounting/legal firm to conduct an exhaustive review and assessment of Board contractual relationships,” Burch said. “The search for the firm will begin immediately.”

“There is nothing more important than the trust of those that depend upon the Board’s leadership,” thr statement continued. “And, over the past week, I’ve had the proper time to listen to concerns and reflect. The Board and I are firmly committed to evolving our governance principles and operating with even more transparency.”

Burch, a retired telecommunications manager and ex-Verizon executive, was centrally involved in Pugh’s 2016 campaign for mayor.

He made a $50,000 last-minute loan to her campaign committee shortly before the Democratic primary where Pugh narrowly defeated former Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon.

Burch has continued to make large personal contributions to Pugh’s finance committee since 2016.

From Public to Private

Chrencik likes to talk about what he found at the University of Maryland Medical Center when he came there in the 1970s – a frequently money losing public hospital that “didn’t have that private enterprise feel.” as he put it in a 2017 Citybizlist interview.

Since then, removed from the public university system, reconfigured as a 501(c)(3) corporation, UMMS has become a hospital network on steroids, its domain including 14 hospitals,28,000 employees and $4.4 billion in annual revenues.

And presiding over this network and taking home one of the region’s highest salaries ($4.27 million in 2016) was, until today’s announcement, Bob Chrencik.

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