The Prince George's County Council voted yesterday to ask the nonprofit corporation that runs three county hospitals to submit to an independent investigation of recent allegations of mismanagement by the 22-member hospital board.
In a letter sent to Francis J. Aluisi, the chairman of the board of directors of the Community Hospital and Health Care Systems Inc., Council Chairman William B. Amonett said that such a special audit would be in the "best interest of the citizens of the county."
The hospital board, a nonprofit corporation that oversees the Prince George's General Hospital, Laurel-Beltsville Hospital and Bowie Health Center, is independent of the county government and is not bound by the council's action.
Neither Aluisi nor hospital spokesman Michael Canning could be reached for comment. Wayne Curry, the board's general counsel, said yesterday he would not respond to the council's request. "I've had so much of this stuff to digest this week that I don't want to talk about it," he said.
Last week, the board's former vice chairman Sylvester (Fred) Frederick, accused the board of engaging in nepotism, making financial agreements with businesses in which board members have interests and improperly awarding contracts.
Frederick was fired from the board Feb. 25.
The council members who dissented in yesterday's 7-to-2 vote complained that Frederick's actions and the council's audit request were unfounded attacks on the integrity of a panel that has been doing a good job.
"I'm not sure we should go in [to investigate], and I question the kind of report that we're going to get back from the government," said council member Hilda Pemberton.
"I don't understand why we're going on a witch hunt, and that's exactly what it is."
Floyd Wilson, who also voted against sending a letter, said that any council action in the matter would be "premature."
But Amonett, who along with Councilman Frank Casula drafted the letter to Aluisi, said that such an audit would remove any political overtones from the inquiry.
"We have county property here entrusted to a health care organization with the responsibility to provide health services to the people of this county," Amonett said late last week.
"It still has an obligation to operate as ethically as a public official would."
The corporation now under fire replaced an old, unpaid hospital commission on July 1, 1983.
County Executive Parris Glendening said in a letter to Aluisi last week that Frederick's accusations, if proved, could constitute a "possible breach of the public trust."
Bruce Abernethy, the director of the county's audits division, said that his office operates "at the pleasure of the council" and would be willing to look into the hospital matter if requested.
The corporation is bound only by its lease agreements with the council or county executive, county attorney Thomas Smith said.