If you have been following the Bransfield story you need to read this article. Once again, the Washington Post delivers a thoroughly-documented article by reporters Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg about the abuses of the former West Virginia bishop. (Note -- emphasis in this post is mine.)
The article begins by describing a $14,000 gift from West Virginia Bishop Michael J. Bransfield to Cardinal Kevin Farrell 2017 and then follows with:
The untold story behind those gifts illustrates how $21 million was moved from a church-owned hospital in Wheeling, W.Va., to be used at Bransfield’s discretion. It adds a new dimension to a financial scandal that has rippled through the Catholic Church since Bransfield’s ouster last year.
A Post investigation found that the money Bransfield sent to Farrell was routed from Wheeling Hospital to the Bishop’s Fund, a charity created by Bransfield with the stated purpose of helping the residents of West Virginia, tax filings show.
The rest of the 3,100 word article documents how this came to be and how Bransfield used the money. I cannot do justice to the breadth and depth of the article, but I’ll highlight a couple of passages that jumped out at me:
Two members of the hospital board, Sister Mary Palmer and Richard Polinsky, said in interviews that they had never heard of the Bishop’s Fund and did not recall approving multimillion-dollar transfers.
A third board member, retired FBI agent Thomas Burgoyne, questioned how any money that started in the hospital ended up passing through Bransfield’s personal account. “Based on my experience in law enforcement, this is something that needs to be looked at,” said Burgoyne.
(It needs to be “looked at.” Really? You think? Weren't there any "red flags" that a former FBI agent might notice?)
The article ties Bransfield's actions to the suit filed by the Justice Department earlier this year:
The Justice Department lawsuit against Wheeling Hospital, based on a whistleblower’s claim, was unsealed in March and is still in its early stages. It alleged that the hospital and its then-leader, Ronald Violi — named as a defendant and described in court records as Bransfield’s “hand-picked” chief executive — were responsible for thousands of false claims for reimbursement from the federal health-care program for the elderly.
Justice said that the hospital’s financial turnaround was driven in part by the alleged scheme.
The lawsuit said the executives “reported to and took direction from Bishop Bransfield,” who personally maintained control over hospital operations and set the pay of the chief executive.
“It is my hospital,” Bransfield often said, Violi told Justice Department lawyers in a recent deposition.
(No comment – Bransfield’s words speak for themselves.)
In local news accounts, the recipients were often quoted praising Bransfield personally for his generosity.
(Yes, we know. See no evil, hear no evil . . . . Look for yet another local editorial/column asking, “how could this happen?” without mentioning the part that local media play in allowing it to go on. See here and here, for instance.)
It will be interesting to see how our local Ogden papers cover this on Monday. Will they print the entire Washington Post story as they did with the previous Post investigation or will they print a locally written Reader’s Digest/Weekly Reader version as they did with earlier Post investigations?