TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice today said voting members of the board of trustees at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey should have “absolutely no employment ties or official links” to the beleaguered State facility or any of its hospital affiliates.
“Membership on the board should be made up solely by those concerned with providing quality health care and teaching services to residents of Newark and other parts of our State,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex, and a longtime advocate for reforming the UMDNJ board of trustees.
Under a bill, S-1221, which Senator Rice re-introduced last week for the new legislative session, voting members on the UMDNJ board, all of whom would continue to be appointed by the Governor, would be increased from 11 to 16.
But Senator Rice said a key section of the bill would stipulate that, “No trustee (voting member) shall be appointed who is an employee or official of any hospital affiliated with the University.” In addition, the Governor would be authorized to name three members from outside New Jersey while all other board members would continue to be required to be State residents.
“Membership on the board should be totally about the best interests of the University, not about getting special access for any hospital affiliates of UMDNJ,” Senator Rice said. “The board of trustees also shouldn’t be a place where employees of the University can boost their pet projects through the voting process.”
The bill would not disrupt the current statute governing the UMDNJ board of trustees calling for the Governor to select the board chair from among the voting members and having the Commissioner of Health and Human Services continue to serve ex officio, without a vote, Senator Rice said. Terms for trustees would continue to be for five years.
Senator Rice said his push to increase membership on the board was motivated by a desire for enhanced public oversight which, he believes, will help “re-establish the positive perception UMDNJ has built over the years in the Newark Community.”
Senator Rice said loosening the State residency requirement for all board members would expand the Governor’s capacity to select the “best people possible” for the job.
Barring board members from having ties to hospital affiliates of UMDNJ will “ensure fairness, enlarge the atmosphere for ethical decision making and, quite simply, remove the very real potential for conflict,” Senator Rice said.
“To ensure fairness, and ethical decision making, it is important that the members do not have an affiliation with the hospital,” said Senator Rice.
Senator Rice said he has proposed similar legislation in the past, but now believes there is momentum for passing his bill following the executive order issued by former Governor Codey which called for the resignation of board members from State educational institutions who did business with the facilities.
“Hopefully, my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Corzine will use my proposal as a focal point of the legislative remedies available to ensure restored confidence in the greatness and the potential for UMDNJ,” Senator Rice said.