Investigation finds hospital’s leader spent public money on personal interests

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Reese Dunklin and Sue Goetinck Ambrose of The Dallas Morning News document how Kern Wildenthal, the former UT Southwestern Medical Center president and its current chief fundraiser, spent hundreds of thousands in public dollars in recent years to build campus wine cellars, pay for his opera interests and travel to paradises around the world.

The investigation details a collapse in controls over taxpayer dollars and triggered a University of Texas System internal inquiry that found many of the same problems. Two auditors were jettisoned in response, Wildenthal will be forced to pay restitution and reforms are being considered.

The package includes an interesting sidebar about how they reported the story. They got thousands of documents through the Texas Public Information Act but “no single set of records provided a comprehensive picture of Wildenthal’s activities. Reporters created a database by cross-referencing credit card statements, travel vouchers, receipts and spending reports. They also reviewed account ledgers and appointment calendars.” Wildenthal later showed the reporters handwritten logs that he said documented his activities but the logs lacked details needed to prove Wildenthal had conducted university business.

The investigation is behind the Morning News‘ paywall but the paper has created a username and password for AHCJ members to access it. Please click here to log into the AHCJ website where you will get the Morning News‘ login information.

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