Two more UMMS board members and chairman resigning in wake of scandal

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A day after Gov. Larry Hogan said he’s looking to “clean house” at the beleaguered University of Maryland Medical System board of directors, several members—including the hospital system’s board chairman of more than a decade—have announced they’re leaving.

Legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly this spring requires all of the board’s members to resign by year’s end anyway. But members Kevin O’Connor and Dr. Scott Rifkin, as well as chairman Stephen Burch, are exiting after the governor said he was disinclined to reappoint most, if not all of them in the wake of a sweeping ethics scandal that has also prompted Catherine Pugh’s resignation as mayor.

Burch, the ex-Virgin Media CEO and a former Comcast executive who’s served two five-year terms and an extra year as chairman, and O’Connor, a lobbyist for firefighters, are both leaving effective July 1. Rifkin, a physician who’s the CEO of Mid-Atlantic Health Care and the publisher of local Jewish lifestyle and news magazine Jmore, is resigning effective immediately.

“We thank Mr. Burch, Mr. O’Connor and Dr. Rifkin for their service and commitment to the Health System,” UMMS interim president and CEO John Ashworth said in a statement. “They brought invaluable experience and perspective to the Board in helping us shape the System for the future of health care.”

One of Rifkin’s companies, Real Time Medical Systems, is a vendor for UMMS, providing “software for a pilot program designed to reduce hospital readmissions,” according to today’s announcement from UMMS. But unlike the previously reported side deals, Rifkin has said their contract didn’t actually involve an exchange of cash.

Through a spokesman for Real Time Medical Systems, Rifkin told Baltimore Fishbowl Wednesday morning that the contract was for $0: “Real Time Medical Systems did not receive compensation from UMMS as a part of this software agreement.”

Nine board members were implicated in the scandal nearly two months ago, unearthed by The Baltimore Sun, in which unpaid board members had cut lucrative contracts with the nonprofit downtown Baltimore hospital system. Rifkin brings the number of board members who held contracts with UMMS to 10.

State Sen. Jill Carter (D-41st District) sponsored legislation to ban board members from being paid in side deals with UMMS, and tipped off the paper about it all, prompting a series of media probes into Pugh’s business dealings.

Beyond Pugh’s resignation from the board and, eventually, as the city’s top elected official, the scandal also spurred the departures of Robert Chrencik as president and CEO of the hospital system, and of multiple board members who were either asked to take leaves of absence or stepped down of their own accord. Ashworth stepped in for Chrencik initially after he went on a leave of absence, and took over after he resigned last month–a day after federal agents served a subpoena at UMMS’ offices.

Carter’s legislation, which Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law, calls for the board’s entire membership to be phased out over the next year.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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