Coleman: child porn incident a 'failure'

By Adam Rubenfire, Daily News Editor
Published February 12, 2012

University administrators have expressed concern after the results of an internal investigation into former medical resident Stephen Jenson's possession of child pornography were released to the public Friday.

University President Mary Sue Coleman called the University of Michigan Health System's six-month delay in reporting the University's Department of Public Safety that Jenson was in possession of child pornography a “serious failure on the part of the institution.” In a letter to the campus community on Friday, Coleman wrote that University officials acknowledge that the situation was handled improperly and that University officials hope the incident will serve as a catalyst for strengthening campus security protocol in the future. The report highlights information not previously known to the public, including a report that UMHS security asked DPS to use forensic resources to examine a flash drive containing the pornography, but DPS did not return the voicemail.

Last May, a UMHS medical resident found a flash drive containing images of child pornography plugged into a hospital computer in the residents’ lounge. The report notes she opened files on the drive to determine who owned it and found Jenson’s name. She left work without reporting the incident and found that the flash drive was removed the next day. She then notified her supervisor, the attending physician, who notified the chair of the Medical School Department Compliance Officers.

On Dec. 2, Coleman was notified of the issue and asked the University's Office of University Audits to conduct an internal review on Dec. 3. Regent Katherine White (D–Ann Arbor), chair of the University’s Board of Regents Finance, Audit and Investment Committee was also notified.

In the letter released Friday, Coleman commended the medical resident who reported the flash drive to hospital security, noting that she reported the incident “not once, but twice,” a fact that was previously not known.

“I want to apologize to her for not properly investigating the allegations in May,” Coleman wrote. “It took an act of courage to come forward again, and it is because of her that the case is now moving forward in the legal system.”

The report cites the Health System Legal Office as a major contributor to the delay, noting that it “should be available for legal advice but should not take ownership of an investigation.” According to the report, the legal office was aware of the case as early as May 25, just days after it was reported to Hospital Security, though it wasn’t reported to police until December.

In her letter, Coleman also criticized the lead attorney on the case for “acting improperly when the incident was reported to her.”

“A University attorney must not assume the lead role in investigating a potential crime of this nature,” Coleman wrote.

The attorney told the resident her claims were “unfounded,” according to the report. The report also suggests that the attorney delayed other UMHS departments, like hospital security, in their investigation efforts because of inappropriate control of the case.

“We conclude that the assertion of improper control of the investigation by the attorney and reliance on her conclusions by others were the root cause for the delay and improper handling of the initial report,” the report states.

Echoing Coleman's statement, the audit criticizes the Health System Legal Office for relying on the single opinion of the lead attorney, and further notes that the Office of Clinical Affairs or the Health System Risk Management Office should have been notified in order to protect patients or employees involved, “even in the absence of a criminal investigation.”

Coleman also wrote that though the Jenson case has been challenging, it will allow officials to strengthen future procedures.

“I believe this experience, painful as it has been, will enable all of us to properly address the seriousness of these issues with any and all future reports and investigations,” Coleman wrote. “As a community, we must and will be constantly vigilant.”

According to the report, the University will review its current procedures regarding “police and security reporting lines and organizational structures” and ensure they are up to par with other universities.

DPS and hospital security leaders will provide an “action plan” regarding the recommendations within 90 days, and a benchmarking report will be completed in six months.

The report also notes that starting in June, University Audits will conduct quarterly follow-up reviews of the incident “until all noted risks are appropriately mitigated.”

In an e-mail to the UMHS community on Friday, Ora Pescovitz, the University’s executive vice president for medical affairs, wrote that the health system is cooperating with a review by the Joint Commission, a national healthcare accrediting organization, of UMHS’ reporting system and infrastructure.

“We are working diligently, along with campus leadership, to correct the shortcomings brought to light by this serious lapse,” Pescovitz wrote. “It is important to remember that it is both our individual and collective responsibility to make certain that the University of Michigan Health System promotes an environment of safety.”

Pescovitz wrote that it is important that UMHS determine exactly what went wrong in this instance in order to improve incident reporting lines in the future.

“As an institution, we failed to make sure that this resident’s concerns were investigated in a thorough and timely manner,” Pescovitz wrote. “We are committed to turning this failure into a lesson, and turning that lesson into actions that ensure that when someone does the right thing and reports a suspicion, we have a safeguarded system and appropriately trained personnel in place to make sure the matter is handled in a judicious and correct manner.”

Pescovitz concluded her e-mail by ensuring UMHS faculty and employees that administrators are dedicated to improvement.

“Sometimes we fall short. Sometimes we make mistakes,” Pescovitz wrote. “Our commitment to doing better has never been stronger.”

DeAndree Watson, president of Central Student Government, said increased transparency between students and DPS is necessary for the general safety of students, adding that this incident was not indicative of a healthy correspondence.

“Transparency is essential in that relationship,” Watson said. “I think (this incident) shows a lack of transparency.”

Watson added that this issue could be representative of other missteps of DPS, including sharing important information with students and the campus community.

“I think it definitely provides room for concern about what other things exist that we aren't aware of,” he said. “There have been issues in the past about this same type of situation where DPS isn't as quick as students want them to be in terms of releasing information.”

Watson added that the issue won’t hurt the deep-rooted connection between students and DPS.

“I think DPS has established a positive relationship on campus,” Watson said. “I don't think this one incident is going to have a serious or significant negative impact on the student body.”

Jenson is currently out of jail on a personal recognizance bond of $10,000, according to court documents. Conditions of his bond demand that he surrender his passport, cease contact with children, and not use the Internet “for any reason.”

The bond also requires that he wear a GPS tether and not leave the state unless travel is approved by the court. According to court documents, Jenson was granted permission to travel to Utah on Dec. 28 and return on Jan. 16.

Jenson’s preliminary exam, a hearing in which prosecutors must provide evidence that suggests probable cause that Jenson possessed child pornography, is Feb. 16 at the 14A District Court at Washtenaw Avenue and Hogback Road.