Maryland auditors ‘hindered’ in medical board report

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The University of Maryland Medical System, rocked by a self-dealing scandal this year involving board members that caused Baltimore’s mayor to resign, has repeatedly “delayed and hindered” the work of state auditors, according to a letter from the chief auditor made public Tuesday.

Maryland Legislative Auditor Gregory Hook wrote to leading state lawmakers late last month that 37 employees in his office have spent a cumulative total of 600 days working on the audit, with fieldwork beginning April 16. He also wrote that the office has spent “countless days sifting and analyzing electronic records” it has received.

Hook wrote that the office has identified “a number of transactions related either directly or indirectly to various past and/or present” board members. For many months, he added, auditors have been seeking access to employees with potential knowledge of the transactions, as well as related contract monitoring processes.

“Throughout this process, the Corporation has delayed and hindered our work by repeatedly failing to make employees available and failing to provide requested information on a timely basis,” Hook wrote to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Adrienne Jones.

Hook’s office had a Dec. 15 deadline, as set in law approved this year by lawmakers in response to the scandal, which led to the resignation of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who was a former board member. Other board members also resigned.

The lawmakers granted a deadline extension to March 13.

Hook wrote that after repeated delays in obtaining documents “and with several questions still unanswered,” the auditors have finished the field portion of their work. However, the auditor noted that a significant amount of work remains before issuing a formal report.

John Ashworth, the system’s interim president and CEO, said in a statement that auditors have been onsite for six months. He said the system has “always endeavored to work collaboratively and transparently with them.”

“The scope of the (Office of Legislative Audits) audit was comprehensive and required the commitment of countless labor hours and the production of many thousands of documents on the part of UMMS,” Ashworth said.

Roughly one-third of more than two dozen of the system’s board members received compensation through the medical system’s arrangements with their businesses.

Emergency legislation was enacted this year to overhaul the network’s board of directors, which oversees a university-based regional health care system. It has about 28,000 employees and 4,000 affiliated physicians in more than 150 locations and at 13 hospitals.

The law bars board members from getting contracts without a bidding process and prohibits board members from leveraging their position on the board for personal gain.

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