Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Tap on the Wrist for Conflicts of Interest at the University of California

A follow-up on our posts (most recently here) on the University of California, which discussed lavish benefits given to top managers at the University, even when their performance was far from superlative.

From the ACTA Online blog, and the San Jose Mercury News, MRC Greenwood, former Provost of the University of California, violated university policy, according to a University of California (UC) internal investigation. Greenwood, the second highest ranked UC official, was accused of conflict of interest because she gave a highly paid administrative job to Lynda Goff, a "close friend" who was also her business partner. Greenwood claimed that this was just a technical error on her part, because she was in the process of dissolving the offending business partnership when she got Goff the job. The UC report stated, "At the time of Dr. Goff's career appointment, Provost Greenwood and Dr. Goff still had an ongoing business relationship, which included joint ownership in a house and a listing as co-mortgagees on a bank loan for the house."

Nonetheless, no penalties will be assessed against Greenwoood, who had been allowed to resign and then collect her administrative salary during a 15 month leave. Instead, after the leave, when she returns to her full-time faculty position at UC, she will be rewarded with $100,000 of research support.

Furthermore, the Healthy Policy blog suggests that the conflict of interests in this case may have been rather more severe than reported in the media.

The 'friend and business partner' is actually (or at least was) Greenwood's lesbian partner, and when faculty (especially those non-tenured, who've gotten a bad deal with pay in the last five years) accused her of neoptism and misusing funds, Greenwood returned with claims of homophobia.
Combining this story with those below of Roger Williams Medical Center and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey suggests a disturbing trend. Executives of academic health care organizations seem loathe to penalize their fellow administrators for unethical behavior, even when such behavior is clear cut. Thus they fail to be wise stewards of their organizations' missions, and hence fail in their duty to the public.

Perhaps if we publicize enough of these cases, we can attract more leaders with integrity and functioning spinal cords into health care, and set up governance systems that are transparent, accountable, representative, and honest.

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