2 UMMS Board Members Resign, Others Take Leave of Absence

    Two members of the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors stepped down on Tuesday and four others agreed to a leave of absence, as the system struggles to deal with conflict of interest allegations that have angered state leaders and led to demands for reform.

    In a statement, UMMS Board Chairman Stephen A. Burch said he had accepted the resignation of board members John W. Dillon and Robert L. Pevenstein.

    He offered no explanation for why those two members decided to step down.

    “This is not a reflection on any of the affected Board members or their businesses,” Burch wrote.

    “Our Board members are incredibly talented professionals who bring invaluable expertise and perspective while advancing Maryland’s own world-class health care system.”

    According to bloomberg.com, Dillon has served as a director of Mid Atlantic Medical Services since 2000.

    According to the University System of Maryland website, Pevenstein is Chairman of QuadraMed, a health care information technology company, and for companies in the telecom and mining industries.

    Burch said he requested that four members “whose businesses currently have relationships with the Medical System — August J. Chiasera, Francis X. Kelly, James A. Soltesz and Walter A. Tilley, Jr. — to immediately take a voluntary leave of absence from the Board while we thoroughly review our governance practices and move toward even greater transparency.”

    Late Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) resigned from the board, amid reports that she had pocketed $100,000 after the medical system bought 100,000 copies of her children’s books.

    The actions come days after The Baltimore Sun reported that nine people on the system’s 30-member board have financial ties to the organization.

    “There is nothing more important than the trust of those who depend on our leadership,” Burch said in explaining the moves.

    The UMMS executive team is scheduled to meet with Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) in the State House on Wednesday.

    In comments last week, Hogan said the situation is “not just unseemly, it is appalling, and I have called for an immediate and full review.”

    Miller and Busch have castigated the board as well – and the topic is likely to come up again when the Board of Public Works meets on Wednesday morning.

    Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) has introduced legislation to bar board members from benefiting from their service.

    “I’m hoping the bill is going to pass and be a vehicle for reform,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

    “This bill opened up a lot of people’s eyes about some of the self-dealing that was going on, and I think that’s important.”

    She said her colleagues have suggested that the legislature “take a look at other boards” as well.

    “I think the public trust has been harmed, based on the information that’s come out, and the extreme amount of money that’s being earned and gained from members of the board — things that apparently don’t go through the procurement process.”

    “The cat is out of the bag now.”

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    Bruce DePuyt
    Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.