Ex-Children's CEO never involved in finance-committee communications

EL PASO, Texas - Questions still loom Thursday about the direction of El Paso Children's Hospital, after its CEO resigned Wednesday.

A strategic planning committee will begin meeting next week to assess whether Children's will be able to pay University Medical Center the roughly $59 million it owes for rent and other support services.

Former UMC Board Chair Ron Acton will head up the committee.

Acton said Thursday that in preliminary committee emails, he never once corresponded with the now-resigned CEO Larry Duncan. He instead communicated with former Children's CFO Ray Dziesinski, who Wednesday took over as CEO.

According to Acton, that in no way supports suspicion that Duncan was on his way out even as the committee was being formed last month. He said Duncan was always more involved in the market side of the hospital rather than the financials.

"From the very beginning in this strategic committee, we're looking for where are we and where are we going and how do we get there type information," Acton said. "And that's the kind of information that we were looking for Ray to give us."

Dziesinski started as Children's CFO on April 7 after serving in the same role at Dallas Children's. Acton also said that Dziesinski's early involvement in committee communications will make the leadership transition a smooth one for the committee.

"The committee was formed to study, investigate and find solutions to the issues, not to talk or discuss about the future employment of any one or multiple individuals," said UMC spokeswoman Margaret Althoff-Olivas. "So I don't think it's going to have any impact whatsoever."

ABC-7 intended to ask Children's Board Chair Sam Legate whether Duncan's lack of involvement in committee talks was because the board knew Duncan's time was running short. Legate didn't return ABC-7's voice mail or text message. Children's spokeswoman Georgina Panahi also didn't return our phone call when we requested an interview with Dziesinski.

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