$19M in grant money to Denver Health delayed over timing of exec bonuses

Millions of dollars in grant money earmarked for Denver Health Medical Center was delayed April 27 after city council members blocked a vote to authorize the payment, citing the timing of executive bonuses, according to CBS4.

Top executives from Denver Health received 2019 performance bonuses April 10, ranging from $50,000 to $230,000, one week after front-line workers were asked to take unpaid leave or cut their hours due to the financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to news of the bonuses, Denver Health was slated to receive about $19 million of the $38.6 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money, according to the Denverite. 

However, Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds and Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca blocked the vote, according to The Denver Post. 

The money will help various organizations across Denver pay for coronavirus-related costs. Mr. Hinds and Ms. CdeBaca cited the executive bonuses as one of the reasons they were not ready to authorize the payments. 

A vote on the payment is now pushed to next week. 

Mr. Hinds in a Facebook Live statement said the timing of the executive bonuses was "disgraceful." 

“Executives [are] receiving large bonuses of tens or sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars, that is not okay," Mr. Hinds said during a Facebook Live statement, according to CBS4. "I’m really frustrated that we have public health administrators… that are taking tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars of bonuses… while working families are sacrificing themselves."

Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein on April 3 implemented a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their work hours due to the financial hit from the pandemic.

One week later, on April 10, millions of dollars in Management Incentive Plan bonuses were paid out to executives. For example, Ms. Wittenstein received a bonus of $230,000 and Connie Price, MD, Denver Health's CMO, received a bonus of $95,792.

Ms. Wittenstein on April 27 apologized to staff members about the timing of the incentive bonuses. 

In the email to staff, Ms. Wittenstein acknowledged that the timing of the payments "caused you hurt and anger."

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