Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is joining the board of the troubled University of Maryland Medical System.
State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller selected Baker, a fellow Democrat, to be his appointee on the board.
“Former Executive Baker is well-versed in health care, and his reputation of hard work, and ethical behavior is renowned throughout the state,” Miller wrote in a letter Monday to James “Chip” DiPaula Jr., the board’s chairman.
The board is being reconstituted as a result of a state law passed this year after The Baltimore Sun reported that several members — including then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh — had lucrative contracts with the system for themselves or their companies.
Pugh, a Democrat, made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the hospital system. She resigned from her mayoral office in May, and state and federal authorities continue to investigate her business relationships with the hospital system.
Under the law, the Senate president and the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates each appoint a board member.
Baker served two terms as Prince George’s executive and made a run for governor last year, finishing second in the Democratic primary.
“I am confident that his leadership and contributions will benefit the system and the entire state as we put this ugly chapter behind us,” Miller wrote.
Baker has experience in leadership following scandal. In Baker’s first year as Prince George’s County executive his predecessor, Jack B. Johnson, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a conspiracy scheme that prosecutors said netted him more than $1 million in bribes. Baker had to not only run the county government, but also help the county remake its image.
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Taking charge in controversial times “seems to be my M.O.,” Baker joked. Turning serious, he said: “I think that’s one of the reasons the Senate president selected me. He knows my track record.”
As executive, Baker lobbied for the University of Maryland Medical System to build a regional hospital in Prince George’s — a project that’s been a priority for Miller, as well. The 205-bed University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo is under construction and scheduled to open in 2021.
Baker said he’s looking forward to being involved in finishing off that hospital, which he said is vitally important not only to Prince George’s County, but also to all of Southern Maryland. “It’s great to see this vision come to fruition,” he said.
Baker previously spent eight years on the board of directors for the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, which also gave him familiarity with the hospital system.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat, has not yet named her appointee to the board.
Most of the board members are appointed by the governor under the new law. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, named 11 board members last month and he’s expected to make more appointments by the end of the year.
All board members are subject to confirmation by the state Senate once the General Assembly is back in session in January.