State leaders called on Wednesday for an outside investigation of the University of Maryland Medical System board of directors, saying that the public deserves an independent probe of conflict of interest allegations that have hit the panel.
Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), speaking publicly for the first time about the UMMS controversy at the twice-monthly meeting of the Board of Public Works, said Marylanders deserve “a real examination of what happened here… because it raises some real ethical concerns.”
This afternoon Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) will meet in Hogan’s office with the medical system’s executive leadership team.
The meeting comes a week after The Baltimore Sun reported that nine of 30 UMMS board members have financial ties to the system.
Three members of the board have resigned in the wake of the scandal — including Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) — and four others have taken leaves of absence while the board conducts a review of contracts involving UMMS directors.
Franchot said a thorough review is mandatory, including a look at who OK’d the controversial arrangements.
“I hope out of the meeting will come an independent audit, not one done by the legislative audit division, because that — everybody knows — is under the thumb of the speaker and the Senate president. so please, don’t give us an audit by [the Department of Legislative Services].”
“Give us an independent audit that asks, ‘Who knew what when about this?’”
Franchot took a swipe at Busch, who has served on the board since becoming head of the chamber in 2003.
“Obviously everybody else is now wondering and wringing their hands about the self-dealing that was going on,” the comptroller said. “Well, the speaker has been on the board of directors for 16 years. Sixteen years!”
Busch’s chief of staff, Alexandra M. Hughes, accused Franchot of trying “to score cheap political points.”
“While the Comptroller is looking to score cheap political points a week after the story broke, the Governor, Senate President and Speaker have been and continue to work in a bipartisan manner to address the situation at UMMS,” she said in a statement.
Hogan again called the reports of self-dealing “outrageous and appalling.”
Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp agreed that “an outside look is appropriate,” but she defended the work of DLS auditors.
“I wouldn’t want anybody to think that legislative audits are not strong, independent [and] usually accurate reflections of reality,” she said.