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Fasano blasts UConn Health Center for “blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars”

Republican Senate President Len Fasano of North Haven sent a letter to UConn President Susan Herbst and UConn Health Center CEO Andrew Agwunobi blasting the university health center for its “blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

The letter was issued in response to a state audit, which found UConn Health Center paid employees for compensatory time in violation of state contract, gave little oversight to multi-million dollar contracts, employed retirees for up to 19 years in violation of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s executive order, and a conflict of interest issue surrounding Agwunobi’s move from a consulting company to CEO of the hospital.

“We have seen blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars, failure to implement basic oversight, and apparent disregard for your core responsibilities to the state and people of Connecticut,” Fasano wrote in his letter.

Fasano cited a 2017 audit of UConn Health Center’s Correctional Managed Health Care, which handles medical treatment for Connecticut’s inmate population, and reports of prisoner deaths related to that treatment.

The Department of Correction hired an outside consultant to review 25 problem cases involving inmate medical care, including 8 deaths.

Fasano also expressed concern over UConn’s payment of a professor for several months following his death, saying UConn “failed to properly oversee its management of professors and their salaries.”

No one at UConn, including his direct supervisors, had heard from professor Pierluigi Bigazzi for several months, but he continued to receive his salary. His body was eventually discovered and his death was ruled a homicide.

The University of Connecticut and UConn Health Center account for a large portion of the state’s highest employee salaries, but the cost of employee retirement benefits — particularly the state’s underfunded pensions — continue to push UCHC into the red.

The auditors’ report detailing lax oversight at the hospital combined with previous reports on UConn’s treatment of prison inmates led Fasano and House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, to call for a public hearing.

“As a representative of Connecticut’s taxpayers, these multiple failures are extremely disappointing and frustrating,” Fasano wrote. “We all want to see UConn Health succeed. But success cannot be achieved until the institution can overcome its pattern of disregard for state rules, regulations and standards for oversight.”

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Marc E. Fitch

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