FAHC puts president on leave amid allegations

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(Host) The trustees of Fletcher Allen hospital have placed President William Boettcher on paid leave while a special committee investigates allegations that he deliberately misled state regulators.

VPR’s John Dillon has the first report of a two-part look at the Fletcher Allen situation.

(Dillon) Trustees of Fletcher Allen Health Care met Wednesday afternoon and tried to ease the controversy over whether the state’s largest hospital deceived state regulators.

The board called President William Boettcher back from a West Coast sailing vacation and then placed him on indefinite leave. The trustees also vowed to fully investigate allegations made by the former chief financial officer that Boettcher and others concealed the hospital’s role in building a $55 million parking garage in order to avoid state review.

The trustees have named a special committee chaired by Verizon Vermont President Louise McCarren to examine the issue. McCarren said Wednesday the committee will include three members from outside the board: former University of Vermont President Edwin Colodny, retired accountant David Coates, and a third member yet to be named:

(McCarren) “We are going to investigate all actions and policies with respect to regulatory compliance generally.”

(Dillon) McCarren said the committee will look at the board’s own role in reviewing the parking garage financing. She said the report will be made public sometime this fall.

The trustee’s actions follow allegations raised by former Chief Financial Officer David Cox who testified under oath in a deposition with state regulators. Cox charged that hospital executives and some board members condoned a plan to develop an elaborate financing scheme to keep the parking garage outside of state review.

That attempt apparently failed. The hospital was required to get a state permit for the underground garage. And the hospital paid $320,000 to settle the case with state health care regulators. But hospital officials did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement. McCarren said she would not comment on Cox’s allegations.

(McCarren) “At this point it would be terribly unfair for all involved to draw conclusions today based on essentially one side of the story. I think it’s critical to have a disciplined, sequential look at all the facts going into our report.”

(Dillon) Former CFO Cox also said under oath that the trustees’ chairman, Philip Drumheller, knew of the plan to evade state review. Drumheller said Wednesday he has asked the board if he should set aside, and the board expressed its support.

(Drumheller) “I raised the issue of confidence in me as chair because of the allegations, and again, I will remind you they are allegations.”

(Dillon) Hospital President Boettcher earns an annual salary of $550,000. The trustees named Thad Krupka, the chief operating officer, to assume the day to day responsibility of running the institution while Boettcher is on paid leave.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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