D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s recently installed pick to lead the city’s long troubled public psychiatric facility has resigned amid questions over his qualifications, including a brief stint leading a hospital later deemed unsafe by federal authorities.
James Edward Kyle on Monday stepped down as chief executive of St. Elizabeths Hospital after just a month on the job, said a spokesman for Bowser (D). The mayor had no comment and Kyle offered no reason for his resignation from the post, which pays $171,000 a year, the spokesman said. Kyle could not be reached for comment.
In a February hiring announcement, Bowser praised Kyle as a strong administrator with 30 years of experience in health care.
But the resume he submitted shows only a decade of work experience in that field, and it raised several questions.
His only stint leading a hospital was four months as chief executive of an Indian Health Service facility for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in Rosebud, S.D.
Members of the tribal board say Kyle left abruptly after assuring them the hospital would pass federal reviews. Shortly after his departure, federal officials inspected the hospital and shut down the emergency room, saying it posed an immediate risk to patients, and later threatened to withhold reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid claims.
The 50-year-old Army veteran claimed multiple degrees from online universities, including a doctorate in leadership from Charisma University. The British West Indies school is not recognized by U.S. accrediting agencies, and it could not receive recognition in the Philippines where it was founded.
A nurse by training, Kyle held positions as a manager for a nursing agency, a professor and diversity officer at a for-profit online university and at a Veterans Affairs health center in San Francisco.
He was hired to work at the University of the District of Columbia in 2013 as the R.N. director of nursing for non-credit programs. But he held the post for only two weeks before regulators found him unqualified, university officials said.
Tanya Royster, director of the Department of Behavioral Health, defended Kyle’s qualifications in an interview with The Washington Post last month. She said he was off to a good start as the leader of the 700-employee hospital.
“I’ve been impressed with what he’s done in the first couple of weeks that he’s been there,” she said.
“The staff are united behind him; the staff are engaged,” she said at the time.
Royster, who was appointed by Bowser last summer, will serve as interim chief executive of St. Elizabeths until a permanent replacement is found.
The hospital will be one item scrutinized Wednesday by the D.C. Council during budget hearings.
St. Elizabeths has a long history of troubles — including assaults of patients and staff and patients wandering off the grounds — that prompted seven years of federal oversight ending in 2014.
A patient is accused of wandering into another patient’s room unsupervised last month and sexually assaulting her.
Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), who chairs the health and human services committee, said she met last week with Kyle, who defended his qualifications and left her with a positive impression as a no-nonsense leader. She said she was surprised to learn of his resignation from Royster.
“She just said it was too much negativity off the bat,” said Alexander, who chairs the health and human services committee. “She didn’t feel he would have the opportunity to do his job without the distraction.”
Alexander said the hospital needs to find a new chief quickly, someone with a good hospital management record.
“We know some of the problems St. Elizabeths has had in the past, and they definitely need a strong leader in there immediately,” Alexander said.