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UMMS adopts new conflicts of interest policy following outside audit

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Posted at 4:46 PM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 16:49:52-04

BALTIMORE — The University of Maryland Medical System will implement a series of new policies and procedures following the return of the self-imposed audit report by Nygren Consulting following the fall out of the “Healthy Holly” book controversy.

SEE MORE: Follow WMAR-2 News full coverage of the "Healthy Holly" controversy

The controversy began with revelations about Mayor Catherine Pugh negotiating the sales of $500,000 worth of copies of her children’s book to UMMS while she served on the organization’s board. Further reporting revealed several board members had business arrangements with the medical monolith while also serving on the UMMS. As these stories came to light, UMMS announced it would contract an outside agency to audit the system’s financial, ethics, transparency and disclosure policies to suss out any other potential conflicts and make appropriate changes to avoid future controversies.

“Collectively, we are both responsible and accountable for what brought us to this point,” read a statement released by UMMS announcing the audit’s findings. "This report serves as a roadmap – not only to increase accountability among leaders and establish a more effective Board structure – but to make progress toward real, lasting cultural change.”

The statement released by UMMS highlighted five key takeaways:

  • A new, more comprehensive Conflict of Interest Policy was authored by Nygren and accepted by the Board of of Directors. It was then passed along to the Governor, Senate President, and Speaker of the House of Delegates. “No person of authority should benefit personally from a decision he or she makes about the organization they serve,” Interim CEO John Ashworth said in a statement.
  • A Governance Committee will be created and made permanent, with the task of overseeing all Board practices, policies, and relationships.
  • A new system to assess “competency” will be implemented to make sure the Board and those who comprise it are able to fill their duties based on experience, skills, and community representation.
  • A new process will be added to make sure the policy changes and new Code of Conduct are articulated and understood to all Board members.
  • Committees will be restructured so that chair positions of Finance Committee and the Audit and Compliance Committee are held by separate individuals with no contractual obligations or relationships with connected companies.

More details about the conflict of interest policy can be found here.

“While Nygren confirmed that outside business interests between a Board member and a nonprofit Board of Directors are not uncommon or illegal, great care and caution must be given to ensure there is proper vetting and no real or perceived conflicts of interest,” read a statement released by UMMS announcing the audit’s findings. “To that end, any proposed professional services agreements with Board members will be revealed to the full board, carefully vetted with the Board’s Audit and Compliance Committee and reported to the Compliance Officer. The new Conflict of Interest Policy will be strictly adhered to in all cases.”