Though it took 20 emails and calls over five weeks and a mobile billboard tour, we have finally received answers from Sentara Healthcare to our two questions: Is Sentara CEO Howard Kern guaranteed his multi-million dollar a year compensation for life? Did Mr. Kern offer a similar deal to top executives at North Carolina-based nonprofit Cone Health to facilitate an $11.5 billion merger deal that Kern has aggressively pursued?

Sentara Spokesperson Danya Bushey wrote in an email:

  • “No, it is not true that Howard Kern will receive a multi-million-dollar compensation for life.”
  • “No, it is not true that Mr. Kern offered a similar lifetime deal to top executives at Cone Health.”

We thank Ms. Bushey for that response. How simple it could have been if we were told that at the beginning or if Mr. Kern had said that to us when we spoke to him.

In November, we began looking into reports that the not-for-profit, tax-exempt healthcare giant had accumulated $6 billion in net assets by mid-2020. And that Sentara was pushing to offload the operating costs for community-founded Eastern Virginia Medical School onto Virginia taxpayers to enable a $11.5 billion merger with Cone Health. That $6 billion is roughly six times larger than the cash reserves of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Kern’s total compensation in 2018 was $5,750,022. These large numbers made the tip worth pursuing.

Now we have been told that it isn’t true. We hope this represents a more open and responsive attitude by Sentara.

We have asked Ms. Bushy for Mr. Kern’s current salary, total compensation and if there are time guarantees that come with either.

We understand that Mr. Kern is under no legal obligation to answer these questions. However, given the large public health stakes for Hampton Roads and potential consequences for Virginia taxpayers, Virginians have a right to know.

We’ll let you know what we find out.


Do you have information to share? Send us a note through our confidential tip line.


Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.


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