SALT LAKE CITY — The billionaire philanthropist who helped found the Huntsman Cancer Institute said Monday he intends later this week to publish a "two-page spread" in both Salt Lake newspapers that provides a full accounting of the institute's operations for more than two decades.
Jon M. Huntsman Sr. also said he believes the university should "clean out" other officials for their part in the recent conflict.
"We now have assembled, and it will be assembled in another two or three days, a complete accountability for the last 22 to 23 years, showing what has happened there, what we have obtained, why we are regarded as one of the four or five leading cancer research centers in the world. It’s truly Utah’s crown jewel on the hill," Huntsman said.
Huntsman said the institute would be releasing "complete returns — I don’t just mean our returns, these are from the IRS, our statements every year — it’s how we have spent their money, (that) the Legislature, the University of Utah, the citizens will be very proud and very pleased, very honored. I just want to put everybody’s mind at rest we’re all doing just great. The institute’s going to keep around for a lot of years."
Huntsman said the accounting comes in the wake of criticism "by different people who don’t seem to understand who owns it or they don’t seem to understand what the family’s done and what many, many great donors have done."
The accounting will also include information about "how we've been able to pay these researchers, grants we've received, funds the state has made available to us," Huntsman told KSL Newsradio's “The Doug Wright Show,” explaining that the institute is overseen by the Utah Legislature, "not the University of Utah Hospital."
Huntsman also lobbed criticisms at University of Utah Health, which he said was disorganized and "badly in need in their financial end and their leadership end."
“I’d much rather fight cancer than fight bureaucracy, but when the bureaucracy is wrong and they put out false information as they did last week, and as they did when they fired Mary (Beckerle), you have to take a stand,” he told Wright.
Huntsman did not return a telephone message from the Deseret News asking for clarification of his remarks.
University of Utah Health spokeswoman Kathy Wilets declined to respond to specific accusations levied by Huntsman beyond saying that the university is looking forward to working with the family on negotiating a new memorandum of understanding over Huntsman Cancer Institute.
In a statement, Wilets added that outside counsel is soliciting input from key stakeholders around campus, that the “financials in question will be reviewed and analyzed by both the university and the Huntsman family,” and that proposed solutions will be presented to the board of trustees.
"We are incredibly grateful to the Huntsman family for their generosity and we believe together we will come up with a solution that will serve our community," Wilets said.
U. board of trustees Chairman H. David Burton declined to comment, stating that “at this point in time, (he) didn’t know enough to comment.”
Independent audits of University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics provided by the Office of the State Auditor show that the department grew its operating profit from $30.5 million a year in 2010 to $158 million per year in 2016.
The audits, conducted by Ernst & Young, also show that the hospital and clinic's operating margins — which include Huntsman Cancer Hospital — increased from 3.5 percent to 9.4 percent over those six years.
Huntsman’s comments come three weeks after Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO and Executive Director Mary Beckerle was suddenly fired by U. President David Pershing and then-Senior Vice President of Health Sciences Dr. Vivian Lee.
Since then, Beckerle was reinstated, Lee stepped down from her administrative positions at the university and Pershing announced he will move up the timeline for his planned retirement. A nationwide search is underway to find his successor.
On the show, Huntsman said "we still haven’t heard why Dr. Beckerle was fired and then rehired,” but that he has confidence that the interim senior vice president of health sciences, Dr. Lorris Betz, will steady the ship. Betz formerly held the position and twice served as interim president of the U.
"He'll (Betz) change things around and we'll be back in order," Huntsman said.
He likewise holds Pershing in high regard, calling him "a fine man" who was “misled.”
But Huntsman said he believes other university officials should be held accountable for their part in the recent conflict, which he earlier characterized as a "power grab" by Lee.
"They do need to clean out several other people there. Their financial team has been a disaster for years and years. We told them that when we see the reports that come in about Huntsman Hospital. Many of them have been totally inaccurate and yet they've allowed this to continue for years," Huntsman said.
"So this will be good thing for the state, Doug, and it will be a great thing for the patients, the people at the hospital. When you go through a housecleaning like this, everybody benefits and everyone gets together again and plays on one team. We're all working for the people of the state of Utah, both the university and Huntsman Cancer Institute. They're owned by each citizen of the state of Utah. We're going to make it all work."
Huntsman added that he was looking forward to negotiating the new memorandum of understanding with the U. and that “this will be no more than a bump in the road.”