"There's no other book like it," Chrencik said. "It was a win-win for the kids. ... Where there's expertise, we're happy to try to leverage it."
But Maryland political leaders reacted with outrage to the allegations of self-dealing. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, demanded Chrencik and board chairman Stephen A. Burch attend a closed-door meeting where the state officials demanded information about who authorized the deal with Pugh. .
"The governor wanted to press that issue very strongly," Miller said. "I asked the question also: 'Why did it continue? 'They said, 'She continued to write more books.' They didn't tell us who authorized the check, who signed the check and who approved the deal."
Hogan described the meeting as "very direct, very forceful ... where we left no uncertainty about our concern about some of the things that had been going on with the UMMS board."
Acting CEO John W. Ashworth III later testified before a General Assembly committee that Chrencik had entered into the talks with Pugh about buying her "Healthy Holly" books.
"We do know that the mayor approached us," Ashworth told the House Health and Government Operations Committee. "She had direct conversations with the president and CEO at the time, and possibly others. But we need to look into that even more to make a determination about how all of that occurred."
An accountant by training, Chrencik served as the longtime chief financial officer before taking the helm during another tumultuous time when several board members, physicians and then-Gov. Martin O'Malley clashed over how the system was run. Chrencik was tapped to lead the system temporarily, and eventually won backing to hold the position permanently.
In his leadership roles, he oversaw the addition of hospitals on the Eastern Shore, the Washington suburbs and the northern reaches of the state as well as the Baltimore region. The acquisitions sometimes rankled local politicians and health care consumers as UMMS officials consolidated and moved programs and services in a bid for efficiency. He also helped usher the hospitals into strict new budgets as part of a federally backed effort to contain health care costs across the state.
The system now has more hospitals in Maryland than any other health care system, with $4.4 billion in revenue and more than 28,000 employees, making it one of the state's largest employers.
Chrencik praised the 1984 privatization of the hospital system in recent testimony in Annapolis.