Wednesday, January 18, 2006

CEO of Rhode Island Hospital Fired Because of Corruption Indictment

Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, Rhode Island, was indicted along with its now former CEO, Robert Urciuoli, and two other officers, on corruption charges related to payments to a former state Senator.  The hospital rejected a plea bargain offered before the indictment on Jan. 5, and became the uncommon corporate defendant in a public corruption case.  After initially putting Urciuoli on paid administrative leave, the Medical Center's board fired him "for cause" on Monday, Jan. 16, after a long meeting.  With his termination, Urciuoli loses not only his severance pay -- which would be equal to 30 months of his salary -- but also the payment of his attorney's fees.  Urciuoli's attorney blasted the hospital, which originally stated that it would fight the charges, stating that the firing was "a regrettable attempt to appease the United States Attorney" and that "[w]e are appalled by the hospital Board's flip flop on the position it has taken for months on end concerning the legality of Bob Urciuoli's actions."  The board's move will likely trigger litigation with Urciuoli regarding whether the termination was "for cause" and whether he can recover his attorney's fees.  Regardless of how that turns out, the cost of his defense will be significant and put him under additional pressure.

Rhode Island Governor Gov. Donald Carcieri has been critical of the Medical Center's board for not negotiating a plea with the federal prosecutors, and this latest turn likely signals that the hospital is trying to work out a deal with the government.  As a non-profit, it is likely that any punishment imposed on the Medical Center will not be significant because it could affect its ability to provide medical services to the poor.  An article from the Providence Journal (here) discussed Urciuoli's firing. (ph)

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