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Stroger stands behind controversial hospital chief

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Cook County Board President John Stroger is resisting calls to fire the man he's appointed to run the embattled Provident Hospital.

Fraud allegations have dogged John Fairman in his last three jobs, drawing two criminal investigations, but Stroger said "I'm going to take a chance on him."

Stroger introduced Fairman on Monday, the same day the Chicago Sun-Times revealed state inspections found "significant" health code violations at the South Side hospital had put patients "at risk for serious harm or death."

On Tuesday, the Sun-Times revealed Fairman was accused of mismanagement and fraud while running public hospitals in Houston, Denver and Washington, D.C.

Though Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Larry Suffredin asked for hearings on Fairman's hiring, Stroger insisted that as board president, "I have the right to hire" who he wants for the job.

Fairman has been accused of conspiring to defraud an agency of more than $1 million, had liens filed against him for unpaid income taxes, spent $5,000 on personal expenses from a fund intended for science and education programs and left an agency so saddled with debt it had to close.

Stroger, with the Sun-Times open before him, said he knew about the allegations, but they "don't mean he's a criminal."

"The only way I'm not going to keep him is if he did something detrimental or didn't come forward" about it, Stroger said.

Trouble at Provident

Three years ago, Stroger hired Fairman's brother, J.W. Fairman, as the county's public safety director after he had been ousted from running the county jail amid allegations of improprieties there.

But Stroger said friendships had nothing to do with his selecting John Fairman, who lives in DuPage County, to run Provident. "Look at his record and his resume," Stroger said.

But Claypool said looking at Fairman's record, it's clear he benefitted from Stroger "figuring out which relative of which politician we're going to get on the payroll."

Claypool's criticism was met with a firm shot back from Stroger, who read reports to the press detailing findings of internal Inspector General investigations into Claypool's employees.

Stroger refused to show those reports or release reports on other officials, as his press secretary, Caryn Stancik, said he was using executive privilege in deciding what information to release.

Stroger also argued against reports of trouble at Provident, calling the Sun-Times' story "lies" -- a contrast to Monday's somber acknowledgment of problems there.

Provident medical director Dr. Aaron Hamb was shown reports detailing incidents he had earlier told the board didn't happen, and he admitted they "did occur" and said policy changes came after each.


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