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No Favoritism Found At William Beaumont, Cash Awards Require More Oversight

An independent investigation found no favoritism or nepotism, but did find there was a step missing from the awards process at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, said the hospital?s commander, Brig. Gen. Dennis Doyle in an interview Monday.

The investigation, conducted by an officer with the Western Regional Medical Command, was requested by Doyle after ABC-7?s probes and findings last year regarding what appeared to be questionable cash awards and hiring practices at the hospital.

Documents obtained by the I-team showed a supervisor, heading the Department of Family Medicine, issued $1,750 in cash awards and two weeks off to the wife of the hospital?s Chief of Resource Management in less than a year of employment.

The documents showed that within two days of being promoted to the department, Dr. Melissa Molina awarded Kimberley Wodarz a week of paid time off. The records also showed Molina hired her assistant?s 23-year-old son for a nurse consulting position that pays more than most mid-level managers make. Andrew Garcia was hired as a Grade/Level 11, Step/Rate 05, with an annual pay of $71,600.

In the same department, ABC-7 discovered a paper trail showing Susana Aguilera, the hospital’s chief union steward, also received more than $1,750 in bonuses within two months of being promoted to Molina’s department. The chief union steward is trained by the employees’ union to be a liaison between employees and hospital management. She can bring issues or concerns from employees to management.

?I think this investigation really proved out that all though there may have been a perception that there were some things going on that were improper. The investigation – very thorough, meticulous, voluminous, when you receive a copy and indicates that those were just perceptions and that we were in accordance with all of the applicable regulations,? Brig. Gen. Doyle said on Monday.

The investigation took place from November, when ABC-7?s initial report aired until mid-December. ABC-7 has requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, a copy of the investigation report. Hospital officials have said they are legally restricted from talking about personnel issues, but the commander said the investigation did not reveal any signs of favoritism or nepotism.

?We just need to work as a command to make sure the staff knows that everyone is treated fairly here and that there is no favoritism among any of the employees,? said Doyle.

The investigation did reveal the issuance of cash awards at the hospital required more oversight. Under Army regulations, an immediate supervisor needs the approval of a committee before issuing a cash award of more than $250.

Supervisors at Beaumont were issuing cash awards of more than $500 with no committee approval. Doyle called it an ?administrative error? that the investigator pointed out to the hospital.

?I’m confident we would have seen that in our review that we were not in accordance with the greater army program,? Doyle said.

The awards process is currently being corrected, added Doyle.

There are several types of monetary awards given to Army civilian employees. A Special Acts and an On-the-Spot award requires the Commander’s approval.

A step increase, that is likened to a pay raise and a performance award is recommended by a rater or senior rater.

According to documents obtained by ABC-7, Molina awarded Aguilera a cash award of $1,500 at one time. It is unclear if any other supervisor or committee approved the award.

Brig. Gen. Doyle also said employees can report suspected favoritism, anonymously if they choose to, with him or deputy commanders at the hospital. He said they can also speak to their Human Resource managers or even report the suspect behavior with the Inspector General.

?I and Command Sergeant Major both have an open door policy. An employee can ask to speak to us directly,? he said.

Brig. Gen. Doyle added that the cash awards system is an important part of attracting qualified professionals.

?El Paso is a vastly underserved medical area so it’s really important for us to be able to recruit and hire and retain valuable employees and one of the mechanisms for that is an incentive program.?

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