Metro

Chief of Caritas forced out

Boston, MA - 2/17/05 - Dr. Robert M. Haddad (cq), president and CEO of Caritas Christi Health Care System, is interviewed about the changes to the state's large Catholic hospital network. (Globe Staff Photo/Pat Greenhouse) (Story slug 18caritas by Liz Kowalczyk) -- Library Tag 02192005 Business Library Tag 05252006 Metro Library Tag 05282006 National/Foreign Library Tag 02012007 Metro
PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF
Dr. Robert M. Haddad, pictured at an interview in Boston on Feb. 17, 2005.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and the leadership of the region’s Catholic health care system early this morning forced the resignation of the hospitals’ president, Dr. Robert M. Haddad, over allegations that he had sexually harassed several women.

At around 1:30 a.m., after a five-hour meeting of the hospital’s board of governors, the archdiocese said that Haddad had resigned from the positions of president and chief executive of Caritas Christi Health Care System.

The archdiocese said that the hospital’s board had voted to fire Haddad but offered him ten month’s of salary and benefits if he resigned instead. His compensation is believed to be worth more than $1 million a year.

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O’Malley called the events that led to Haddad’s departure “very unfortunate and serious.”

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“Our actions this evening recognize that all complaints of sexual harassment will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly,” O’Malley said this morning.

Haddad’s departure ends a brief but embarrassing episode for the cardinal, who has faced a series of damaging controversies during his three-year tenure as archbishop of Boston. O’Malley had decided last week to reprimand, rather than fire, Haddad after four women employees accused the physician of harassment, but the cardinal changed his mind after a Globe story on the decision led to more than 10 new accusations and a public outcry.

The cardinal had selected Haddad for the job two years ago after demanding the resignation of Haddad’spredecessor. His fate had hung in the balance all last night, as the board of governors, which had been criticized for not hearing all the evidence against Haddad last week, staged a hearing at the archdiocese’s main office building, the chancery, in Brighton.

The two people who led the most detailed investigations of the allegations, lawyer Jean A. Musiker and Caritas executive Helen G. Drinan, each fielded detailed questions for nearly an hour; the board then spoke more briefly with lawyer Scott C. Moriearty, who had reviewed the archdiocese’s options for disciplining Haddad, and then, after making him wait for more than three hours, the board met with Haddad for about 20 minutes starting just after 10:30 p.m.

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Before the meeting, lawyers representing O’Malley and Haddad had spent the day negotiating the terms of a possible severance package for Haddad, but had been unable to reach a final agreement in advance of the meeting at the chancery. Haddad had initially been seeking nearly $3 million, roughly the equivalent of two years’ compensation, but O’Malley had balked at such a high payout, said people with knowledge of the negotiations.

Yesterday, just before the 7 p.m. scheduled start of the meeting, members of the hospital board and a battery of dark-suited lawyers and public relations officials trickled into the chancery, just off Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton.

Haddad’s departure marks a dramatic turnabout for O’Malley, who less than a week ago had decided to privately reprimand Haddad.

The four women said Haddad had hugged them and kissed them on the mouth. In some cases, he is also accused of making phone calls in which he asked the employees questions about their personal lives.

O’Malley learned on April 24 that the four employees had filed complaints with the hospital’s human resources department, beginning in February. The allegations had been investigated by Drinan, the hospital’s senior vice president for human resources; the cardinal then asked for an investigation by the former general counsel to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Musiker, a partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, and sought advice from several specialists in employment law, including Moriearty of Bingham McCutchen and Stephen B. Perlman, a partner at Ropes & Gray.

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Drinan and some advisers to the cardinal concluded that Haddad should be fired. In a letter to the cardinal, Drinan wrote, “I must speak up in faith to call for an end to what can only be seen as the continued abuse of these women, and an affront to the people within our organization who so carefully follow their legal and professional obligations in handling situations such as this.”

But others advocated a reprimand and a warning; Perlman said he did not believe that Haddad’s behavior was illegal or warranted termination.

After the Globe reported on the allegations and the reprimand Sunday, O’Malley summoned the Caritas board of governors to last night’s meeting.

Haddad had issued a statement on Monday denying any inappropriate behavior and attributing his actions to his ethnic heritage.

“In my Lebanese culture, hugs and kisses among men and women are not only expected, but warmly given and received,” he said in the statement. “So I was stunned to learn that some of my actions may have been misinterpreted; at no time was I aware of making anyone uncomfortable. And although I have never acted inappropriately, I deeply regret causing anyone any discomfort.”

Haddad’s statement reportedly angered O’Malley, who had agreed to issue the reprimand with the understanding that the physician understood that his behavior was inappropriate.

Haddad is the third leader of the hospital system in two years to be replaced. In April, 2004, O’Malley demanded the resignation of the hospital system’s chief executive, Dr. Michael F. Collins, for reasons he never disclosed. Collins, who had served 10 years at the helm of Caritas, is now the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

O’Malley immediately appointed Emmett C. Murphy, a consultant who had been hired earlier to evaluate the system and recommend changes, as interim president. Murphy resigned after being asked by the Globe to explain several apparent discrepancies in his Caritas Christi biography.

O’Malley then appointed Haddad, who had been serving as president of Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, one of the Caritas hospitals, since 2001. A board- certified internist, Haddad was born in Medford, got his medical degree at the University of Massachusetts, and completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Before coming to St. Elizabeth’s, he had worked as senior vice president of clinical practice and business strategy at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.

Caritas Christi is the state’s second-largest hospital network, behind Partners HealthCare. Its six hospitals cover territory from Fall River to Methuen and include St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton, which is the chain’s flagship.

Despite its size and religious significance, the system had been financially troubled, losing millions annually between 2000 and 2005, with the exception of 2003, when $7 million in state bailout money for Caritas Carney Hospital in Dorchester helped it turn a modest profit.

O’Malley has credited Haddad with restoring the hospital system to financial health. This year, rating agencies have credited a major cost-cutting program led by Haddad, which included dozens of layoffs, with keeping the system on budget for the fiscal year 2005 and producing a $22.6 million operating profit.

Robinson can be reached at wrobinson@globe.com; Paulson at mpaulson@globe.com.