UMMS Board Chair, Two Members Resign

Stephen Burch, chair of the University of Maryland Medical System board, is one of three board members who announced their resignations on Tuesday. Photo by Bruce Depuyt.

The chair of the University of Maryland Medical System board resigned Tuesday as an additional contract with a board member was disclosed publicly.

Stephen Burch, who has been on the board since 2008, will leave his post as chair on July 1, when his term expires.

The resignation of two other board members was also announced Tuesday: Kevin O’Connor, effective July 1, and Dr. Scott Rifkin, effective immediately.

Rifkin, according to a statement, was resigning as part of the board’s “effort to prevent conflicts and increase transparency.”

Rifkin is owner of Real Time Medical Systems, which has an active agreement with UMMS for software used by a pilot program aimed at reducing hospital readmissions.

Rifkin’s business relationship with the board had not been previously publicized; Rifkin told The Baltimore Sun that his company had entered an agreement with UMMS to offer the software at no cost.

Rifkin, a physician, is also the publisher of JMORE, a multi-platform publishing company focusing on the Jewish community in the Baltimore region. His older brother is Alan M. Rifkin, senior partner of the law and lobbying firm Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC.

The paper reported earlier this year on nine board members who had contracts with the hospital system, most notably then-Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D).

Pugh resigned from the board in the spring and as mayor last week after revelations of insider dealing including a $500,000 contract with UMMS to buy her self-published “Healthy Holly” books. Pugh also secured contracts to sell the books to city vendors.

Two other members of the board – John W. Dillon and Robert L. Pevenstein – have resigned since March.

Four members are currently on leave: August J. Chiasera, Francis X. Kelly, James A. Soltesz and Walter A. Tilley Jr. Those board members were asked to take leave by Burch in March, while an independent firm reviews board members’ contractual relationships with the system.

The medical system has also lost former CEO Robert Chrencik, who resigned last month.

The board is in line for a major overhaul after the General Assembly passed legislation that will add new requirements for financial disclosure, prohibit no-bid contracts, ban board members from having financial relationships with the institution and other safeguards. The bill also dissolves the terms of all current members of the board, allowing Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to make appointments to the new vacancies.

Hogan told The Baltimore Sun in an interview published Tuesday that he wants to “clean house” at the board and is highly unlikely to reappoint any former members.

“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.”

A meeting of the board scheduled for this week has been postponed.

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