Whitman-Walker Clinic announced on Tuesday, March 24, that a pro bono, independent review of the clinic's management by the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP has found no substantial mismanagement at the clinic.
The report comes as a response to questions from the D.C. City Council's Committee on Health about the clinic's management. During a Jan. 28 public roundtable, D.C. City Councilmember David Catania(I-At large) and others raised serious concerns about several cutbacks made at the clinic under the leadership of CEO Donald Blanchon, including the sale of the 1407 S St. administrative building, closing the clinic's Virginia branch, laying off several employees, and reducing the clinic's GLBT-specific programs.
The clinic challenged several of the more serious concerns during private meetings with media earlier this month, where Blanchon spoke of his background, the AIDS-related death of his gay brother, and why he's passionate about his position at Whitman-Walker Clinic. Blanchon also used those meetings to emphasize that he has ''no intention of resigning.''
In a prepared statement, Brian Johnson, treasurer and executive committee member of the WWC board of directors, said that ''Arnold & Porter was asked to look into charges of mismanagement made by the Committee on Health, prepare a report on these issues and make recommendations for improvements to the Board of Directors, if necessary.''
The 54-page report concludes that the mismanagement charges were largely unsubstantiated and offers eight recommendations to improve the clinic's operations and ensure its financial stability. These include improving record keeping; strengthening the clinic's financial-management systems; collecting third-party funds in a timely manner; expanding communication and outreach to District leaders, the gay community and other supporters; and maintaining a commitment to functioning as a primary health care facility for members of the GLBT community and for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Addressing Catania's concerns that the Whitman-Walker Clinic ''has strayed too far afield from its core mission, which was originally to serve the GLTB community,'' the Arnold & Porter report states, ''[We] found no evidence that supports the conclusion that the Clinic's management used the move to [Federally Qualified Health Center] status to eliminate or minimize the Clinic's LGBT focus.''
Instead, Arnold & Porter reports that modifications to the clinic's business model changed the services offered to the GLBT community, eliminating some and adding others.
''These changes reflect not an abandonment of the LGBT mission, but reasonable decisions about how best to accomplish that mission in an FQHC and in a financially sustainable way.''
''It doesn't surprise me that the Whitman-Walker Clinic has acquitted itself of poor performance,'' said David Catania, who had been briefed on the report, delivered to his offices at close of business Tuesday, by his staff. ''Arnold & Porter has no expertise on the subject of health care with respect to the District of Columbia.'' Catania noted that the Arnold & Porter attorney who interviewed him for the report ''basically came in as combative as he could possibly be. He had a preconceived conclusion.''
Catania believes the report's authors had ''no interest in getting to the bottom of this. Their only interest was in whitewashing the issue, so I'm not surprised by the conclusion.''
For a full copy of the Arnold & Porter report, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Whitman-Walker Clinic, visit www.wwc.org. For the City Council Committee on Health, visit www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/health.
Randy Shulman contributed to this story.