The Getaway

What the Paul Levy saga says about the city’s most powerful institutions.

By Eileen McNamara | Boston Magazine |

THE TWO WOMEN AT BIDMC who should have stopped Levy years ago — senior vice president of human resources Lisa Zankman and senior vice president and general counsel Patricia McGovern — go back decades with him. Levy was executive director of the MWRA when Zankman was that agency’s human resources director and McGovern was chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee in the Massachusetts Senate. Like the board members who did nothing after Levy ignored their repeated pleas to end his ties to Mohamed, Zankman and McGovern gave their pal a pass even though his relationship with Mohamed was an open, divisive secret in the hospital they are paid to serve. They might say they did not know; they should have. Neither woman wanted to talk about it.
Levy, though, cannot seem to stop talking. Despite being warned to cease using his blog to take shots at rival hospitals, his daily postings are alternately unctuous and self-serving or defensive and slightly paranoid.

After the attorney general’s report criticized the Beth Israel board’s failure to provide “diligent and independent management oversight” of Levy, and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women called for his dismissal, he posted an out-of-left-field reminiscence about an award he received five years ago from the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and the speech he made that night hailing the women who had been “my mentors, advisers, and supporters during a multi-decade career….”

After the Service Employees International Union challenged the board’s support of Levy, he speculated that the SEIU local was targeting a union drive on BIDMC rather than Massachusetts General or Brigham and Women’s Hospital because of the “personal relationship between the former head of the SEIU [Andy Stern] and the chief operating officer” of Partners HealthCare, Thomas P. Glynn. (The two knew each other when Glynn was in the Labor Department under Clinton.)

Get it? Levy’s critics are either feminist harpies or labor agitators sicced on him by rival hospital executives.

Levy can get away with this sort of spin because he has spent decades, and no small amount of effort, cultivating friendships with reporters and editors. When he takes a pay cut to save a janitor’s job, it’s on the front page. When protesters picket a board meeting to demand he be fired, it’s a news brief. Call it the Great Man theory: Larger-than-life figures who go astray in Boston — even those more slick than charismatic — are quickly restored to the fold.

  • Ellen

    Bravo to Eileen Macnamara for her fantastic article about
    Paul Levy. I had a soul searing experience in 2005 with him at BIDMC and I shall never forget it. You can read about it on my blog http://www.elleninmedicaland.blogspot.com. It is a chapter of my book, Ellen In Medicaland and it is called Medical Care From Hell. You can also listen to radio and tv shows about this experience at http://www.tvyourhealthcare.org.

  • Ben

    Where was Helen Drinan when the BI needed her. Mrs. Drinan filed a complaint to the Caritas Christi trustees when a ceo misbehaved. Like the BI,Caritas Christi is a religious based hospital. At the BI,Levy drove out a beloved rabbi who sat on the ethics commission.

  • Pilar

    This article is dead on. It does not matter what Mr Levy did, individually. What is concerniong, deeply concerning, is that powerful institutions in Boston not only tolerate infringements of law and policy but, in addition, promote those who are responsible. Philantropists should reserve their donations for institutions that promote abiding by the law!

  • Shawna

    Tip of the iceberg, Eileen, tip of the iceberg. The network protects criminals, too.