Washington Post On-Line: Mayor Supports Sale of United Medical Center

Posted at 4:09 PM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Gray moves to oust United Medical Center board members, supports sale

By Mike DeBonis

If you thought the Great Boards and Commission Wars of Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s term ended with his departure, you would be sorely mistaken.

His successor, Vincent C. Gray (D), is seeking to remove four Fenty appointees from the governing board of United Medical Center, the Ward 8 hospital that came under city control last July.

Gray has asked for resignations from Andrew "Chip" Richardson, former mayoral counsel and director of the Office of Risk Management; Robin-Eve Jasper, former director of the Department of Real Estate Services; Leon Swain, chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission; and David Gragan, former chief procurement officer, according to Ron Collins, Gray’s director of boards and commissions.

None of the officials, who are about six months into terms lasting either two or three years, have tendered resignations.

After a news conference this afternoon, Gray said that he was concerned that the four board members were members of Fenty’s administration and that he was interested in members that "have expertise in governing a hospital."

But backdropping of all this is concern from D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), powerful chairman of the health committee, that Gray might hastily sell the long-troubled hospital, throwing it into further instability. With Catania’s support, Fenty and his attorney general, Peter Nickles, had been committed to nursing the hospital back to financial health under District ownership. Catania in particular is opposing a sale of the hospital to District businessman George Chopivsky, who has operated psychiatric hospitals in other parts of the country.

Those favoring selling the hospital argue that the city cannot afford the financial risk of having a hospital on the books. Gray said today that he is one of them: "There are people like me who believe this needs to be turned over to a private operator," Gray said, noting that Chief Financial Office Natwar M. Gandhi is among that group.

The UMC board has 11 voting members, six of whom are mayor-appointed. Besides the four asked to resign, Department of Mental Health Director Steve Baron and Assistant Attorney General Eugene Adams occupy mayoral-controlled slots.

Gray, as chairman of the D.C. Council, appointed one of three council-designated members to the board shortly before he assumed the mayoralty. It is unclear whether new chairman Kwame R. Brown is seeking a resignation from that member, businessman Chris Gardiner.

Collins said today that the four members asked to resign have given a variety of reasons for not doing so. At least one, he said, said they were concerned about the hospital’s future and intended to stay.

Asked whether the Gray administration is considering other options to force the members out, Collins said, "If they’re not going, then we’ll have to."

By Mike DeBonis | February 8, 2011; 4:09 PM ET

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