The federal monitor who spent two years exposing fraud and corruption at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - and whose investigation led to the indictment of State Sen. Wayne R. Bryant - will wrap up his work at the end of the month.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie informed UMDNJ's president and board chairman of that decision in a letter dated yesterday.
"We are confident that at this time law breaking has ended at UMDNJ," he wrote.
The school, which describes itself at the country's largest public-health-sciences university, agreed to the federal monitor in 2005 to avoid prosecution on Medicaid fraud. An indictment on those charges would have effectively shut down its teaching hospital, University Hospital in Newark.
The monitor, former federal judge Herbert Stern, has issued regular reports on his findings since then. A report released earlier this year said his office had launched more than 50 investigations and exposed more than $400 million in waste, fraud and abuse.
He described a school that had become a political patronage pit, ruled by no-bid contracts, kickbacks and favoritism.
As Christie said in his letter, "law breaking was an acceptable way of doing business" in 2005.
Stern uncovered everything from the serious to the mundane. He discovered a system of kickbacks being paid to cardiologists for patient referrals, and found that UMDNJ's helicopter did not have FAA approvals.
His most prominent investigation was into a job that Bryant, a powerful South Jersey Democrat, held at UMDNJ's School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Stratford.
Stern found that Bryant, the former chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, was given a no-show position in exchange for his help in steering millions of dollars to the school.
In March, Bryant and R. Michael Gallagher, a former dean at the school, were indicted on federal corruption charges. They have pleaded not guilty.
Stern also investigated William Wallace, a dean at the Stratford campus who also served as a Gloucester County freeholder and chairman of the Delaware River and Bay Authority. The FBI raided his office in 2006 after receiving a tip that his secretary was shredding documents.
Stern later accused Wallace of steering a no-bid catering contract to a friend and helping his daughter get admitted to the school, even though she did not take the required tests.
Wallace, who was fired shortly before Stern made his accusations, has not been charged with any crimes.
Most recently, Stern accused Paul Mehne, the former dean of UMDNJ's Camden campus, of fixing student grades. Mehne was placed on paid administrative leave in June, amid the monitor's investigation and just weeks before his planned retirement. Mehne has denied violating any grading policies.
This summer, Stern said UMDNJ had taken "significant strides" in making recommended reforms, including hiring a compliance officer to investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
The school also hired a new general counsel in May, and a new president began work in July.
In his letter, Christie said the monitor could have continued his work for another year if UMDNJ's board requested it. The board did not.
"We take this as a very positive sign," Christie wrote. " . . . UMDNJ is prepared and committed to finish the needed reforms without the need for federal oversight."
Christie also said that his office would move to dismiss the criminal fraud complaint filed against UMDNJ two years ago.
Anna Farneski, the UMDNJ spokeswoman, said the board's decision not to seek another year of oversight "is a reaffirmation of our promise to make integrity, honesty, and high ethical performance our continued norm."
UMDNJ Probe at a Glance
Dec. 29, 2005 -
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) agrees to federal oversight to avoid prosecution on Medicaid-fraud charges that threatened to shut down its teaching facility in Newark.
Sept. 18, 2006 -
The federal monitor, Herbert Stern, says that UMDNJ gave State Sen. Wayne R. Bryant (D., Camden) a no-show job in exchange for his influence in steering millions of dollars to the school.
March 29, 2007 -
A federal grand jury in Trenton indicts Bryant and R. Michael Gallagher, a former UMDNJ dean, on corruption charges.
Dec. 31, 2007 -
The monitoring will end, after the U.S. Attorney's Office declared that "law breaking has ended at UMDNJ."