and ANDREW L. WANG
For at least 15 years, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Egan has sat on the boards governing a south suburban hospital while it regularly has hired her brother’s law firm.
Chicago-based Pretzel & Stouffer has represented Palos Community Hospital in almost half of the 170 cases involving the hospital filed over that period in the law division of the circuit court, according to a Crain’s review of court record s. From 2011 to 2013, Matthew Egan, a partner in the firm, represented Palos in at least 15 cases before his sister’s judicial colleagues, most of them involving medical malpractice or personal injury.
The nonprofit hospital did not disclose the financial relationship with Mr. Egan in forms filed with the IRS between 1999 and 2011, the latest year for which records are publicly available. It did disclose a separate sibling relationship: payments totaling nearly $56,000 to the sister of its former CEO in 2011.
In a response to questions from Crain’s, the hospital says it plans to review its procedures.
“As it pertains to contracted legal services, we believe all of the required board disclosures have been made,” Palos board Chairman Edward Mulcahy says in a statement. “However, as a precaution, we will again review our internal processes.” Mr. Mulcahy says the administration, not board members, hire vendors.
The independent, 362-bed community hospital in Palos Heights is in the midst of a leadership shakeup. After roughly 30 years under CEO Sister Margaret Wright, who retired in 2013, the board hired Edgardo Tenreiro, chief operating officer at a Baton Rouge, La., hospital system. But with no public explanation, he departed three weeks ago after less than three months on the job.
Greg Paetow, a board member for three years, says he quit for “personal reasons” on Feb. 12, the same day Mr. Tenreiro left. A second person on the 12-member hospital board also resigned in February, as did Thomas Barcelona, chairman of the board of parent company St. George Corp., which solicits donations for the hospital.
Ms. Egan (at right), who also serves on St. George’s board and is on the Palos hospital board’s executive committee, says she disclosed Mr. Egan’s representation of Palos on an annual conflict statement available to the hospital’s auditors and tax preparers.
“I believe that I have performed my service as a jurist and volunteer PCH board member in a responsible and ethical manner,” she says in a statement. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”
Ms. Egan did not respond to a request to provide the document. Disclosure statements she filed with the Illinois Supreme Court from 2011 to 2013 do not mention her brother or his law firm.
Mr. Egan says in an email that “no attorney in our firm has ever appeared before Judge Egan in any matter on behalf of Palos Community Hospital.” Notions of a potential conflict of interest are “false, indeed reckless,” he adds.
Even if Pretzel & Stouffer were the best firm for the job, experts say the lack of transparency raises questions.
“I would think in this case you would want to bend over backwards to disclose the conflict to make sure no one makes assumptions,” says David Becher, an associate professor of finance at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
quote|David Becher, professor, Drexel University
I would think in this case you would want to bend over backwards to disclose the conflict to make sure no one makes assumptions.
During Ms. Egan’s tenure on the board, Pretzel & Stouffer has been named only once in the hospital’s available tax returns, as one of the five highest-paid vendors in 2002, making about $163,000. Nonprofits generally must disclose employees who are board members’ relatives if they make more than $10,000 a year, says David Lowenthal, a Chicago-based senior manager at accounting firm Plante & Moran PLLC.
The hospital has disclosed the compensation of board members Thomas Courtney, a lawyer who processes third-party liens for patient bills; Dr. Mark Sinibaldi, the medical director of the psychiatric unit; and Ms. Wright’s sister, who also worked at the hospital.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Having Ms. Egan and fellow law division Judge Deborah Dooling on the hospital board raises other questions. The Illinois Supreme Court’s Code of Judicial Conduct allows judges to serve on charitable boards so long as the service doesn’t interfere with their duties.
The code, however, warns that a judge should not serve if the organization is “regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court” and singles out hospitals as a potential trouble spot.
Ms. Egan says she “carefully considered whether my service on the board was permissible” and, after consulting the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee, concluded there was no issue. Ms. Dooling did not return messages.
One past chair of the ethics committee says he would caution judges against serving on a hospital board because hospitals are frequently named in malpractice litigation.
“The fact that Dooling and Egan sit in the law division makes it more obvious that they should not be on the board,” says Warren Lupel, special counsel at Chicago firm Much Shelist PC. “If (cases are) frequent, it’s ‘regularly engaged,’ and certainly for a hospital, it is frequent.”
For complete coverage of Chicago-area health care news, visit ChicagoHealthCareDaily.com.
From Ken Ditkowsky
At hearings involving Mr. Amu’s kangaroo processed ARDC hearings Judge Egan and/or her brother were not required to appear and testify to refute the 8.3 complaint that Mr. Amu made – By Clairvoyance Larkin, his kangaroo panels, and the Illinois Supreme Court determined that Mr. Amu was lying and a danger to the public by his exposure of corruption.
Unfortunately, in an effort to ‘cover-up’ corruption in Illinois Larkin and his 18 USCA 371 co-conspirators regularly violate their public trust and use their position to protect corrupt judges and lawyers who prey on the public. Accusing lawyers who take their responsibility and oath to defend the Constitution and the Rule of Law seriously are defamed, intimidated and if they stand up for the core values of America suspended from the practice of law. Illinois is only one of the States in which this cover-up of corruption is prevalent.
Jerome Larkin teaching Ethics is an oxymoron and about as disingenuous as can be imagined! Even confronted with the fact that he has not told the TRUTH under oath, Larkin is not ashamed to continue to draw his unearned salary = paid by public funds = and to pollute the environment with his perfidy. The public has lost confidence in our leadership – with good reason. The Courts do not command respect, as respect has to be earned and it is not earned when one judge after another is exposed as dishonest. The Judge in the Mary Sykes case 09 P 4585 (Cook County) on page 91 of her evidence deposition admitted that the result of hearings if held would be pre-determined to find Mary Sykes in need of a guardian. We call this “wired!” The public got an excellent lesson as to what happens when a judge admits that she was “fixed,”wired, “etc. She was elevated to the Appellate Court of Illinois. Jerome Larkin who had the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence had an easy solution to the problem. Keep the file out of evidence in disciplinary proceedings so that the lack of jurisdiction could not be part of the record – and the lack of hearing could be cemented over. If the judge under oath made a fatal admission, the remedy was equally simple – expunge the admission! The ex-part expungement is accomplished by a simple method – the court reporter just alters her notes and transcript.
Indeed, Jerome Larkin, Illinois paragon of ethics, administers the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary commission in his own image, aided and abetted by the Supreme Court of Illinois. It is no wonder that Illinois is known nationally as one of the most corrupt States in the Union. It is no wonder that the State is on the verge of Bankruptcy.
What is to be done? We need HONEST investigations of the criminal activity emanating from our Courts and we need HONEST prosecutions of all the miscreants. As a first step we need to send a message to Mr. Larkin and all his 18 USCA 371 co-conspirators. This message should come from the tax man. Larkin and all his co-conspirators are not engaging in corruption because they have a dislike for America – they are engaging in the avarice for profit. We know from the Chicago Tribune articles by John Kass of the payoff to the political establishment that occurs as a condition precedent to becoming a judge, and we know the massive amounts of money generated by the dishonest elements of the health care industry. The dishonest elements of the health care industry are paying out to the dishonest judicial, political and public official’s large sums of money for their greasing the path of the billions of dollars of illegal health care profits. (Seth Gillman is reputed to have stolen millions – if not billions – in his hospice operation. The Illinois ARDC for years looked the other way, did no investigation (honest or otherwise) and until JoAnn Denison’s blog (MaryGSykes) called it to the attention of the public, Larkin totally ignored the theft of public funds. Apparently according to Ethic’s professor Larkin theft by an attorney is acceptable conduct – the 8.4 reporting is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. (I am not making this up – those were the words of Larkin to the Illinois Supreme Court concerning the MaryGSykes blog.
Thus – it is urged that as Larkin is a co-conspirator pursuant to 18 USCA 371 with the miscreants that he gives cover by the misuse of his office, he has joint and several liability for the reporting and the paying of the Federal and State Income taxes incurred. He therefore should be pursued by the Illinois Department of Revenue and the US Department of the Treasury for the hundreds of millions of dollars of unpaid taxes, interest and penalties that have profited the cottage industry of corruption in Illinois by lawyers, judges, **** under the protection of the IARDC and the Illinois Supreme Court.
Please allow me to make one more point. Public service is a public trust. No one forced Larkin and his ilk to take public jobs and public salaries. They actively sought these positions and affirmatively sworn to serve the Law and the Constitution honestly and faithfully. By Larkin’s racism (Amu) and his venality he has disgraced the legal profession irrevocably. At the very least he should pay the taxes due, plus interest and penalties.