Dr. David Dunn may end up being the best thing that ever happened to local journalism.
Because any reporter walking out of an interview or press conference with Dunn, U of L executive vice president for health affairs, takes away the gnawing suspicion there are few public figures in Louisville so richly deserving of scrutiny by Louisville’s feeble Fourth Estate.
Personally, Dunn motivates me to come back and look at everything he touches at U of L, at the School of Medicine and most importantly, at University of Louisville Hospital. This is to some extent an issue of the wrong person in the wrong, thankless job.
Instead of someone with diplomatic skills and a willingness to say mea culpa, mea bene culpa when caught, U of L officials selected Dunn – a little god – as the public face of the university.
A little god who is truculent, imperious, officious and superior, yet oddly crude and ham-handed in his obfuscation.
Today, Dunn turned in a vintage performance at an ad hoc press conference called in response to Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen’s findings on the Quality Care and Charity Trust.
Dunn started out by thanking Edelen for honoring U of L’s request for an audit.
His tone was, “Thank goodness the university proactively turned to this trusted third-party for oversight when we realized there were teeny little insignificant technical issues related to U of L’s management of QCCT,” a $30 million-plus pot of state and city money used to fund indigent care at University of Louisville Hospital.
That was Dunn’s point of departure, and any attempt to talk about the main issues of accountability and transparency was, ah, unwelcome.
In fact, the audit started with Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell last January and O’Connell’s investigation into the failed hospital merger, NOT with U of L officials:
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell today announced an apparent deficiency in meeting records of The Quality Care and Charity Trust (QCCT), the entity which manages state and local indigent care funds to University of Louisville Hospital. The trust, which is responsible for administering approximately $32 Million of public funds annually, is required by its by-laws to meet twice annually to perform its fiduciary responsibilities.
“Dr. David Dranove, of Northwestern University, the national expert I retained to review documents provided to me in settlement of my lawsuit against U of L, recommended that, should the merger be approved, ‘the county and state should explore establishing an independent, locally-controlled foundation that is responsible for funding certain mission-oriented activities of the hospital,’” said O’Connell.
“On December 28, 2011, I requested from the University of Louisville, under the Kentucky Open Records Act, the minutes of the QCCT Board of Directors meetings, annual audit reports, and other documents. “The response I received indicates that the QCCT Board’s last meeting was December 5, 2007 – 4 years ago. Information suggests that a meeting was held in 2009, but no minutes of such a meeting have been produced.”
So, the county attorney has to use the open records act to get any information from U of L about its indigent care trust!
In reality, Ramsey’s response at the time was not compliant, but evocative of George W. Bush: “Bring it on.”
Now, let’s look at Edelen’s actual findings versus Dunn’s spin.
- QCCT board structure is not conducive for providing proper oversight.
- QCCT board failed to meet as required by the QCCT bylaws.
- QCCT board meetings were not effective for proper oversight.
- QCCT board lacks written policies and procedures.
- QCCT board did not have sufficient communication with the audit firm.
- QCCT board did not review or approve the annual funding calculation.
- QCCT does not have an updated agreement in place.
- QCCT funds are not accounted for at the patient level.
- Indigent Care Log does not provide adequate information for proper accountability of QCCT funds.
Dunn, on the other hand, seized upon one finding in the audit as absolute vindication: No one stole any money from the fund while U of L officials weren’t paying attention.
To his defense, Dunn is the unfortunate and unsuitable soul who has to carry U of L President James Ramsey’s water in Ramsey’s relentless efforts to evade public scrutiny.
Even though U of L is a public school, funded by state dollars as well as federal student loans. U of L does generate revenue from research and licensing, but even those are a direct product of public funding for U of L research or sports.
Ramsey – who in our opinion is otherwise a very successful president – has always resisted accountability, spending hundreds of thousand of dollars on legal fees to move anything vaguely sensative to “private” foundations. He even proclaimed University Medical Center “private” during the debate over whether U of L Hospital should merge with Catholic Health Initiatives, a Denver-based, faith-based hospital network.
So for the record, Dr.Dunn, the QCCT audit came out of your public institution’s relentless evasion of public oversight in the face of repeated instances of university officials caught being inept at best, or at worst apologetically treating the public’s money as their own.