When he resigned, All Children’s CEO left more than the hospital

In addition to leaving All Children’s Hospital, Dr. Jonathan Ellen resigned from at least four local boards and automatically lost two other posts.
Published December 14 2018

Dr. Jonathan Ellen's resignation this week as CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital sent ripples of change throughout the Tampa Bay community, as he voluntarily left at least four local leadership appointments and automatically lost two other positions in statewide organizations the same day.

Ellen stepped down from leading the St. Petersburg hospital Tuesday, following the Tampa Bay Times' investigation, "Heartbroken," which found the mortality rate for pediatric heart surgeries at All Children's had climbed to the highest in the state on his watch. The doctor did not return a call for comment Thursday.

READ THE INVESTIGATION: Johns Hopkins promised to elevate All Children's Heart Institute. Then patients started to die at an alarming rate.

Tuesday night, he used a text message to resign from his most-recent appointment as chairman of the University of South Florida's Consolidation Task Force, said Brittany Wise, spokeswoman for the State University System. The state's Board of Governors, which oversees public universities in Florida, tapped the doctor for the position in March, then replaced him Thursday with Tampa businessman Mike Griffin.

"For obvious reasons, it's best for everyone if I resign," Ellen said in the text message, sent to system chancellor Marshall M. Criser III. "I am so sorry for any problems this causes but you all got this. Thank you for the opportunity."

USF St. Petersburg regional chancellor Martin Tadlock called Griffin an "ideal person" to lead the school’s consolidation efforts, noting that he has worked hard to learn about each of USF's three campuses as a member of a task force subcommittee focused on campus identity. Griffin’s role on that subcommittee will be filled by Debbie Sembler, a former USF trustee.

Ellen also removed himself as president of the board for the St. Pete Innovation District, a designated area in the city's downtown backed by a group aiming to create new opportunities for creative business. Tadlock, who had been serving as vice president, will temporarily fill the doctor's place until board members meet to elect a new leader on Jan. 16.

"We also look forward to when the hospital has a new leader that can join us," said executive director Alison Barlow. "We're looking forward. … We'll keep moving forward."

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg also received a resignation from Ellen, who served as chairman of the group's board of trustees. Former vice-chair Dr. Katurah Jenkins-Hall agreed to take his place, spokeswoman Karen Chassin said.

Across the bay, Ellen resigned as one of 48 members of the board of trustees for Tampa's David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, spokesman Paul Bilyeu said. The center will replace the doctor, but "it's a little early in the whole process for us to know what will happen," he added.

Ellen's resignation from All Children's automatically stripped him of his appointments at two statewide nonprofits: the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and the Florida Council of 100, a group of state business leaders who advise the governor.

"That's the way it works in our bylaws," said council president and CEO Bob Ward. "Once you are no longer in that position, it is in essence a resignation."

For the Hospital Alliance, Ellen served as chairman of the board of trustees, which is made up of the CEOs of the organization's 14 member hospitals. Therefore, whoever replaces Ellen at All Children's will take his place as a member of the board, president Lindy Kennedy said in a statement.

Tadlock, the USF St. Petersburg chancellor who took Ellen's position on the Innovation District board, said though many changes are facing the community surrounding All Children's, he hopes everyone keeps focused on moving forward.

"It seems like right now is an interesting time of transition," he said. "We seem to be having lots of interesting opportunities come our way."

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com or . Follow @mareevs.