TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice, which would strengthen the capacity of the Board of Trustees at the University of medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), and create greater oversight by eliminating any perceived conflicts of interest, was approved by the full Assembly by a vote of 69 to 4 and 5 abstentions.
“With the continued media scrutiny of UMDNJ, it is even more important now, to remind the public that the university is still a top research facilities,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “The current ethical issues going on at UMDNJ have brought to light the need to ensure that we keep corruption out of our health care industry. The bill also looks to end any disparity in the level of care given between the urban and suburban communities.”
The bill, S-1221, would change the number of voting board members from 16 to 23. The members would be appointed by the Governor, with two members that would be appointed upon the recommendation of the Senate President and two by the Speaker of the General Assembly. The bill would also require that at least one of the 23 members be on the faculty, and be recommended by the deans.
Senator Rice noted that the measure would still allow the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to act as a non-voting member of the Board of Trustees.
“In hopes of avoiding any conflict of interest, a section of this legislation would specifically prohibit any voting member from being employees of UMDNJ or any hospital affiliated with the University,” said Senator Rice. “Membership on the UMDNJ board needs to reflect the best interest of the University. The board is no place for members to advance their own personal agendas.”
According to Senator Rice, “The new board needs to have more diversity, and represent the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of the State. The membership also needs to reflect the differences of our geographic regions by requiring that at least two members come from North, Central and South Jersey, and only three could be residents of another State,” Senator Rice, said.
Senator Rice noted that the measure would stagger the length of the terms for the members, and voting members would be required to appoint and determine the term of office for the vice-president of the university.
“New Jersey will soon see some real changes in the actions of the members of the board at UMDNJ, because this board will need to adopt a code of ethics,” said Senator Rice. “One aspect of the bill would create a confidential procedure that will allow UMDNJ’s employees to feel comfortable coming forward about their concerns of alleged wrongdoing.
By providing a safe way for employees to report ethical concerns, we are helping the university restore the public’s confidence in their management abilities.”
The measure would also establish a nine-member Board of Directors for University Hospital and would require UMDNJ to maintain an Internet website to provide increased public access to board operations and activities, said Senator Rice.
The bill will be considered for final legislative approval by the full Senate on Monday.