UNC Hospitals’ dark money contribution approved by CFO, record shows

Updated: Jun. 27, 2019 at 2:39 PM EDT
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WBTV) - A WBTV investigation has identified the senior UNC Hospitals administrator who approved using state funds to make a contribution to a dark money advocacy organization earlier this year.

Chris Ellington headshot (Source: UNC Hospitals website)
Chris Ellington headshot (Source: UNC Hospitals website)

WBTV first reported on Monday that UNC Hospitals paid a special assessment of $58,633 to the North Carolina Healthcare Association with the express purpose of that money being passed on to a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, groups which are commonly referred to as dark money organizations.

On Monday, hospital spokesman Alan Wolf said the contribution had been made ‘inadvertently’ and said the hospital had requested--and received--its contribution to the NCHA back.

“From what I understand, it was simply an error, and (thanks to your email) we have corrected that error,” Wolf said in an email Monday.

Previous: UNC Hospitals makes contribution to dark money group, asks for refund after WBTV investigation

But Wolf wouldn’t explain how the money was accidentally paid and, specifically, wouldn’t identify whose signature was at the bottom of an invoice from the NCHA approving that it be paid.

“I don’t recognize the signature, but I will check around,” Wolf told a WBTV reporter who took a screenshot of the signature, embedded it in an email and asked Wolf to identify who approved the expense.

Wolf never followed-up with an answer on whose signature was at the bottom of the invoice.

But, when asked on Thursday, Wolf did confirm the signature belonged to Chris Ellington, executive vice president and chief executive officer of UNC Hospitals and president of UNC Health Care Network hospitals.

This note approving payment of an invoice that included a line item for a contribution to a...
This note approving payment of an invoice that included a line item for a contribution to a dark money organization was approved by UNC Hospitals EVP and CFO Chris Ellington.

“I have confirmed it was Chris Ellington’s signature," Wolf said. "As I stated the other day, it was paid in error. We are happy to have it rectified and be refunded.”

Wolf still did not explain how Ellington erroneously approved the contribution. He did not provide any additional comment for this story.

Also on Thursday, the State Employees Association of North Carolina issued a statement in response to WBTV’s original story about the payment.

“We are outraged by UNC Hospitals’ gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars,” SEANC Executive Director Robert Broome said. “The UNC hospital system is not only playing politics with health care coverage for more than 720,000 public servants, retirees and their families, but also jeopardizing access to affordable care for their own employees.”

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