All through the BookGate saga in Baltimore, the primary figure we dealt with was former Mayor Catharine Pugh, who has since resigned from her office. But she wasn’t the only politician caught up in the net at the University Of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). Pugh was only one of many people sitting on the board of directors at UMMS, and roughly one-third of them resigned, were forced out or placed on leave after the Baltimore Sun exposed the fact that they had self-dealing contracts and arrangements going with UMMS, with most of them lining their pockets nicely.
The Chairman of the board, Stephen Burch, began rooting people out when the scandal went public and he’s been active in figuring out ways to repair UMMS’ reputation. At least he was until now. Turns out that something has changed and he just resigned along with two other members.
The chairman of the embattled University of Maryland Medical System board of directors announced his resignation Tuesday — along with two other board members — as an additional contract with one of the departing board members was revealed.
Board Chairman Stephen Burch, who attended a contentious meeting in March with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller over the board’s contracting practices, announced his resignation effective July 1.
Burch, who also served as a member of Democrat Catherine Pugh’s transition team when she became mayor of Baltimore, was joined in resigning from the UMMS board by Kevin O’Connor and Dr. Scott Rifkin.
This looks bad at first glance, but Burch still isn’t being accused of any sort of grifting. He’s exchanged words with the Governor and legislators working on reforms, but it doesn’t sound as if he had his hand in the cookie jar. Perhaps all of the recent bad news has simply made the situation intolerable so he’s moving on.
Dr. Scott Rifkin, on the other hand, may have bailed out too quickly. It’s true that he had a “deal” with UMMS to provide them with some software from the company he owns, but as you read into the details, he didn’t make any money off of it. He gave it to UMMS at no charge to use as a billing efficiency and money-saving tool. And he’s apparently provided the documentation to back that up.
With that in mind, he really wouldn’t have gotten anything out of this deal except possibly some positive reviews for his product to show to future customers. (The software package reportedly did save the system a lot of money.) But, as he said during an interview, “They’re pretty hypersensitive right now.” That’s understandable.
In any event, the resignations at UMMS are continuing and they may have a long road ahead of them before the public recovers any amount of confidence in the organization. Perhaps with an almost entirely new board of directors, a new mayor in City Hall and reform legislation on the way to prevent such abuse in the future, that confidence will eventually be restored.