Letter: WSU board seeks financial accountability

The Detroit News

There have been several recent articles, most inaccurate, about the reasons for the policy concerns of the Wayne State University Board of Governors regarding the Wayne State-Henry Ford Hospital System collaboration deal.

Wayne State University

Given what was recently presented to the board, the opposition of several members to this deal is entirely appropriate. I wanted to set the record straight and discuss our concerns.

Wayne State has a decades long medical student education and research collaboration with HFHS, which will continue and so should current negotiations.

Several members of the WSU board are, however, opposed to using millions of taxpayer dollars to compensate out-of-state consultants for poor work product.

In 2015, President M. Roy Wilson brought in a number of consultants to represent Wayne State in negotiating a stronger relationship with HFHS. After three years of negotiation, the consultants presented a non-binding Letter of Intent to the Board of Governors.

The initial response from the board was an 8-0 vote to allow Wilson to continue the negotiations with HFHS; it was not a vote in favor of the content of the letter. The Letter of Intent had no input from the broad leadership of the School of Medicine, its faculty or the faculty union.

Many WSU board members and faculty found the Letter of Intent extremely problematic. Chief among their concerns was that it would place the control and authority of Wayne State’s 150-year-old medical school into a private, limited liability company controlled by a separate, private board (i.e., placing the assets of a public university in a private entity). And, intentional or not, the letter also had a significant bias toward HFHS oversight/control over Wayne State assets.

Many of my colleagues and I provided feedback to Wilson and the consultants that the agreement was unacceptable and legally concerning, given its handling of public university assets.

We challenged Wilson and his administration to go back to the drawing board but continue negotiations with HFHS, based upon the parameters and feedback from the Board of Governors.

In addition, given the poor work product (the Letter of Intent), members on the board began to ask questions about the nature of the consultants’ contracts, billings and how much they were paid; especially given they only worked for Wayne State part-time. These are basic, legitimate, fiduciary responsibilities of a governing board to assure that limited public resources are spent wisely.

The preliminary information and feedback to the board is that significant payments were made to the consultants (David Hefner, Lisa Keane and Dwight Monson). As my colleagues and I were internally trying to clarify both the nature of the consultants’ contracts and the amounts they were paid, we began to receive significant pushback from Wayne State administration and the consultants.

Since our internal inquiries about consultants’ contracts and payments began, one consultant was fired, another’s contract was not extended and a remaining consultant, Dwight Monson, suddenly resigned on his own accord.

Managing limited public taxpayer dollars is critical. We do not want the cost of expensive consultants to be placed on the backs of our students.

Sandy Hughes O’Brien, immediate past chair

Wayne State University Board of Governors