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He spent two decades as University of New Mexico Hospitals CEO, was involved with various community boards and business groups, and was willing to continue to work for UNM.
Instead, the UNM Health Sciences Center for more than a year has been paying Steve McKernan about $150,000 a year to stay home, and will continue to do so for another 14 months.
After McKernan retired as emeritus CEO in 2018, he signed an employment
agreement that said he would hold the position of executive director of planning for UNM Hospitals and report directly to the UNMH CEO. The agreement called for him to work about 20 hours a week and be paid about $150,000 a year in biweekly payments.
Five months later, he received word of his termination from that position. Kate Becker, who has been the UNM Hospitals CEO since May 2018, sent McKernan a letter in November 2018 informing him that his employment was ending. “As we discussed yesterday, this letter is written to give you notice that your employment agreement is being terminated without cause,” Becker wrote.
McKernan’s last day was December 12, 2018, said Mark Rudi, a spokesman for the hospital. Hospital administrators declined to say why they decided to end McKernan’s consulting employment.
But he will keep collecting checks through June 2021, according to a copy of his contract documents.
A Release of Claims states that while McKernan was terminated, UNM will continue to pay his salary, and health, dental and vision benefits through June 2021. The document also states that McKernan was “able and ready” to continue to work for UNM Hospitals.
The Candle, a New Mexico news site, reported on McKernan’s continued payments earlier this month.
UNMH announced in August 2017 that McKernan was retiring but would continue to work as “emeritus CEO” until June 2018 and then as a consultant after that.
At the time of his retirement, McKernan had more than 37 years of experience at the hospital, including more than 20 years as its CEO.
UNM Hospital officials declined a request for an interview.
McKernan also declined to comment.
“Several months after the new CEO was hired, (McKernan’s) consulting services were no longer required and that contract was terminated effective December 12, 2018,” Rudi said in a statement. “The University is meeting its obligations consistent with that contract termination.”