Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson has been cleared of wrongdoing after a six-month inquiry by Maryland's state prosecutor into whether he withheld $5 million from Prince George's Hospital Center until officials hired one of his associates as a senior manager.
Jim Keary, a spokesman for Johnson (D), said yesterday that the county executive received a letter from the state prosecutor's office exonerating him. Keary said Johnson was unavailable for comment. He has scheduled a news conference today to discuss the prosecutor's findings.
"He did nothing illegal," Keary said of the report, which was also sent to Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli began the inquiry in April based on an allegation by Calvin Brown, chairman of Dimensions Healthcare System Inc., which operates Prince George's Hospital Center. At a March 9 hearing of the county Board of Health, Brown alleged that Johnson wanted Dimensions to hire K. Singh Taneja, a member of Johnson's hospital review team who has also donated $1,135 to the county executive's campaign fund over the previous two years.
Taneja, a veteran health care administrator, served Dimensions as a consultant, reviewing hospital operations. He was given a full-time senior management position in February.
Brown said last night that he was unaware of the state prosecutor's findings. "This is the first I've heard it," he said.
Brown said it had been months since he was interviewed by the state prosecutor's office. He was questioned once, he said.
The $5 million in question was pledged by Johnson last Oct. 23 as the first installment in a five-year, $30 million aid package for the financially strapped hospital, which treats three-quarters of the county's uninsured residents. The council approved the plan five days later. It wasn't until March 3 -- more than four months after the council's action and nine days after Taneja was hired -- that Johnson gave the check to Dimensions at a news conference.
Ivey referred the matter to Montanarelli after receiving a letter from the chief auditor for the Prince George's County Council. Auditor David Van Dyke outlined the allegation Brown made at the March 9 hearing.
"We feel," Van Dyke wrote, "it is our responsibility to bring to the attention of the proper authorities any instance where the possibility of an impropriety exists."
Ivey said it was "appropriate for someone in a neutral position to review it."
Montanarelli died in May at age 75, before the inquiry was complete. Robert A. Rohrbaugh, a former federal prosecutor named by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) as a successor, continued the probe.
Johnson angrily denied Brown's allegation after the March hearing. "I haven't spoken to Calvin Brown in six months. If he said that, he is a liar."
The hospital continues its efforts to get back on its feet financially. This month, two top Dimensions executives, President and Chief Executive Patrick F. Mutch and Noel A. Cervino, executive vice president and chief financial officer, were forced by the Dimensions board to resign.