Mark Rothman: Aspen hospital needs a ‘self-perpetuating’ board of directors
April 9, 2008
ASPEN ” Mark Rothman, a retired attorney and candidate for a seat on the Aspen hospital board, is one of two candidates who actually have served on a hospital board before ” incumbent Dr. Barry Mink is the other.
And while Rothman does not argue strongly that his experience should make the difference when voters make their choices beginning this week, he believes his experience might be helpful as the hospital embarks on a major fundraising and expansion campaign.
And he is the only candidate in the race who talks in detail about a significant change ” actually, two changes ” that he believes should be made in the way the hospital does business.
Rothman, 68, is one of seven candidates running for as seat on the Aspen Valley Hospital board of directors. The others are real estate broker Chuck Frias, paramedic and businesswoman Deborah Hutchinson, Mink, attorney David Missner, Dr. Mindy Nagle and attorney Albert Slap.
Although Rothman has retired from the corporate tax law firm he founded in the Washington, D.C., area about 30 years ago ” Paley Rothman ” he still is in the hotel development business, he said this week. He has developed five hotels in the Maryland area, he said, still owns two (which he oversees from his adopted home in Aspen), and he is building one more.
He and his wife, Sandy, have been living full time in Aspen for several years, although they have been coming here for about 25 years. A daughter, Shereen Sarick, also lives in the valley with her family and her husband, developer Jordan Sarick.
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Rothman, like the other candidates running in the election, believes generally that the hospital is in good financial shape. He supports a proposed $100 million expansion and renovation program that already has been submitted to the city of Aspen for conceptual review. And he believes that housing is the most critical issue facing the hospital district in its bid to remain a competitive, attractive and vital health-care facility, as do all the other candidates.
But Rothman also has another agenda ” one different from his fellow candidates. Rothman has said publicly, in a candidates forum this week sponsored by The Aspen Times and the Roaring Fork Leadership organization, that he believes the hospital board should be expanded from its current size of five directors to at least eight or nine.
“The job of the directors is to hire top management, make major policy decisions, and the CEO reports to the board,” he said, summing up his view of the volunteer job he is seeking.
And with a board of only five directors, he maintained, “limits the breadth of knowledge” on which the board can draw in its deliberations.
A larger board, he said, would provide “some more eyes, some more brains, some more thoughts that could be helpful.”
Plus, he continued, it is part of a director’s responsibilities to serve on committees that advise the board on certain issues.
And with only five directors, he said, “You’re going to work these people to death.”
In addition to expanding the size of the board, Rothman said he thinks the process of electing directors is not the best idea.
Instead, he said, the hospital would be better served if the hospital was run by “a self-perpetuating board” on which board members themselves appoint their successors once their terms expire.
“The board ought not to be a popularity contest,” he maintained, “because it’s the operation of a specific business, whose sole function is health care,” unlike such political positions as county commissioners and city council members who are in charge of a broad array of public programs, facilities and revenues.
He said Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., where he served on the board in the 1980s and ’90s, had an appointed board that oversaw significant changes and improvements over the past couple of decades. He served on that hospital’s Planned Giving Committee, which was the major fund raising arm of the board, he said, and was on the board while the hospital put together a $25 million expansion.
“That’s the way most community hospitals are done,” he said of nonelected boards. “Publicly owned hospitals like this are pretty rare, and that has some appeal [to local residents], obviously.”
But, he said, the hospital could be run as any other nonprofits in the area, which do not have elected boards but which “all serve the community.”