- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2008

EXCLUSIVE:

This month’s mass resignations of 10 board members from the University of Maryland Medical System came after the board defied a specific appeal from Gov. Martin O’Malley to place his favored candidate in charge of the $1.9 billion operation.

Mr. O’Malley urged the board members in a letter obtained this week by The Washington Times to elect the board’s chief financial officer, Bob Chrencik, as the system’s new chief executive officer just days before the board instead offered the job to John P. McDaniel, a former MedStar Health chief executive officer.

“I endorse Bob Chrencik as the logical, interim CEO,” Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, wrote in the July 29 letter to members of the 27-seat board. “He represents our best hope for a person to take the reins. I thank you for taking my perspective into account.”

After the narrow decision in favor of Mr. McDaniel, Mr. O’Malley’s appointments secretary Jeannie Hitchcock called some of the board members to say their services were no longer needed, board member Gary Jobson said in an interview.

“She said: ‘The governor has decided not to continue your service to the board and the people of Maryland. As of today, you are no longer a director,’” Mr. Jobson said. “The vote was not acceptable to Governor O’Malley. So he stepped in and let his voice be heard. That’s the reason why so may trustees decided they could not continue to serve.”

The friction boiled over in a closed-door meeting on Aug. 20, when Chairman John C. Erickson resigned after reaching an agreement with Mr. O’Malley. Nine other board members - who had turned up after receiving legal advice that the dismissals were not binding - resigned in protest of Mr. O’Malley’s interference. The remaining members rescinded the job offer to Mr. McDaniel and offered the post instead to Mr. O’Malley’s preferred choice, Mr. Chrencik.

The internal turmoil roiled a medical system that maintains a network of hospitals across eastern Maryland and trains many of the state’s doctors. It is one of the largest private employers in Maryland.

It also prompted accusations of improper interference with a board that was set up 25 years ago in part to insulate the system from political interference after years of poor management.

The O’Malley administration did not return repeated calls Wednesday about the governor’s letter to the board members.

But board members said Mr. O’Malley already had sidestepped the board’s selection committee in making several appointments over the previous two months.

Among them were John P. Coale, a trial lawyer who loaned Mr. O’Malley $500,000 in the waning days of the 2006 campaign, and Alan Fleischmann, who ran the failed 2002 gubernatorial campaign of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

“There is a startling trend developing all across Maryland,” James Pelura, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said in response. “Governor Martin O’Malley has been repeatedly interfering in the affairs of nonpartisan local boards and state boards to extract political vengeance and reward political allies.”

Since taking office two years ago, Mr. O’Malley has attempted to remove state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and successfully removed Alison L. Asti from her job running the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Mr. O’Malley has since made peace with Mrs. Grasmick. But last year board members of the stadium authority appointed by Mr. O’Malley pushed out Mrs. Asti, who had been appointed by a board dominated by appointees of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

She was targeted after an audit showed severe mismanagement of the authority. However, a former authority chairman, Robert L. McKinney, an Ehrlich appointee, said Mrs. Asti took control of the agency after the problems.

Mr. O’Malley has not given any reason for opposing the selection of Mr. McDaniel, who was chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission under Mr. Ehrlich.

Mr. McDaniel gave to Democrats and Republicans alike over the past 10 years, nearly $22,000, according to the State Board of Elections.

He gave $4,250 to Mr. Ehrlich, who appointed him to the racing commission post. He also gave $3,500 to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Calvert and Prince George’s Democrat, and $2,250 to House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

He gave $250 to Mr. O’Malley.

Mr. Jobson, who survived cancer with the help of University of Maryland doctors, said he asked to be reappointed.

“I wanted to continue,” he said. “I felt that my personal mission at the hospital was long from finished. I wouldn’t have lived if it wasn’t for the work of the doctors at the hospital. … I’m on a mission to make sure that patient quality and care is at an absolute.”

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