John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Paul Levy, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said today that for years senior staff and board members warned him about his relationship with a female employee, but for reasons he does not fully understand he ignored them.
Levy, in his first interview since the situation came to light three weeks ago, said he made a mistake in believing that he could employ his "close personal friend" at the hospital without creating discomfort for other employees and potentially damaging the reputation of the institution.
Levy, who declined to detail the exact nature of the relationship, said he was very sorry for his poor judgment and hoped to win back the trust of employees, patients, and the broader community. He said he has not thought seriously about resigning.
"I really love this place. I've mainly thought about how much I'd like to stay here. We're doing really good things for patients and families," he said.
The state attorney general's office said yesterday that it would review whether the hospital board appropriately handled what it described as a "lapse of judgment" by Levy and whether charitible funds were misspent.
Levy said he does not believe hospital money was used inappropriately. He said the woman filled necessary jobs at the hospital, added value to the organization, was highly qualified, and did good work. He said she received severance pay of just under $30,000 when she left the hospital last year, which was in line with payments to other employees who departed.
The board last week decided to fine Levy $50,000 for showing poor judgment in his relationship with the employee, whom Levy hired when he joined the hospital eight years ago. But the board has not disclosed details of its investigation or what Levy's lapse of judgment entailed.
Levy, 59, has been chief executive since 2002 and has made a name for himself as an advocate of openness regarding hospital costs and quality. He also won public praise during the recession's darkest hours for asking hospital employees to take pay and other cuts rather than see layoffs of lower-paid employees.
The board asked for the review Thursday after its fourth emergency meeting in two weeks. In a letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley signed by chairman Stephen Kay, the board said, it was "confident in its process and the conclusions it reached based on the facts before it."
But it also said an independent review would "reassure our employees, patients, and the entire Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center community that our board remains committed to protecting the integrity of this institution and fulfilling its fiduciary duties."
The attorney general's inquiry will delve into the hospital's expenditures surrounding Levy's relationship with the woman and her employment, an official familiar with the attorney general's office actions told the Globe.
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