Southcoast Health President and CEO Keith Hovan stands during his bench trial in Wareham District Court in December, where a single assault and battery charge against him was dismissed. Credit: Christopher Rosonina / For The New Bedford Light

NEW BEDFORD — The Southcoast Health Board of Trustees announced on Friday that it is in the “best interest” that President and CEO Keith A. Hovan does not return to his role after being placed on paid leave in November following his arrest, according to an email to employees.

“…the Board of Trustees has determined it is in the best interest of Southcoast Health for Keith Hovan not to return as the President and CEO,” the email states. “We thank Mr. Hovan for his past service.”

The Light asked the hospital’s Boston-based public relations firm, Solomon McCown and Cence, if the board’s decision was final, meaning Hovan cannot return as president and CEO. 

Dan Cence, the firm’s CEO, replied “no comment” by email. 

The Light also inquired with Southcoast Health’s internal public information officer Katie Cox on Hovan’s status as of Friday, including whether his removal is immediate and if he is barred from holding other positions within the hospital system. 

Cence replied to the inquiry sent to Cox, stating the “system has no comment.”

Hovan was arrested in November of 2021 and charged with assault and battery following a domestic incident, a charge that was later dismissed in Wareham District Court after the alleged victim chose not to testify. 

Reports state that officers responded to Hovan’s Rochester home at night after his daughter called 911. An officer who responded to the home noted Hovan was “covered in a liquid” that smelled like alcohol. The officer wrote that Hovan exited the front door stating “something along the lines of, ‘It was me, I did it, my arm hit her in the face.’”

One officer also reported seeing cuts with blood on Hovan’s forearm. After entering the home, an officer attended to Hovan’s wife, spotting droplets of blood on clothing and a red mark on her face that later became a bruise, per the police report. 

As part of their procedure following an arrest for assault, police removed more than 40 legal firearms that were securely stored in Hovan’s home. They also found ammunition magazines (just over 80 of which they alleged are illegal) and about 19,500 rounds of ammunition (also stored securely), according to the police department and records.

Rochester police in November of 2021 filed a summons for a felony charge against Hovan for alleged possession of illegal firearms magazines or feeding devices, according to a police report.

Hovan was scheduled to appear in district court for a show cause hearing in January to determine if there was probable cause for the firearm-related charge.

The Light has been unable to confirm if the closed-door hearing has since taken place. It was rescheduled from its original date of Jan. 10 after The Light successfully petitioned the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for a halt in the proceedings until a justice ruled on the motion for public access to the hearing.

A Wareham District Court employee in the clerk’s office on Thursday said they did not see anything in the system after searching Hovan’s name. Hovan’s attorney, Christopher M. Markey, and Wareham clerk magistrate Daryl G. Manchester, have not responded to a request for comment on the hearing status. Rochester Police Chief Robert Small Jr. has not responded to multiple inquiries on the status of the application for the felony charge. 

The board’s email states Dr. Rayford Kruger, who has been serving as acting president and CEO, will continue in that role.

“Many of you have come to know Dr. Kruger over his 34-year tenure as a surgeon at Southcoast Health. Please join us and Dr. Kruger as we continue to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time, close to home,” the message to employees states.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of Southcoast Health System and Southcoast Hospitals Group and has the “ultimate decision-making authority for the corporations within the Southcoast Health system,” according to a previous statement from Solomon McCown and Cence.  

“The Board governs the corporation by adopting a strategic plan and policies that govern the corporation, selecting and overseeing the CEO and ensuring that the corporation is fulfilling and has adequate resources to advance its mission,” wrote Molly Horan, the firm’s vice president, in a November email. “As such, the Board must be kept apprised of the activities and challenges of the corporation and regularly votes on matters related to the corporation.”

According to the Southcoast Health website, Hovan was appointed president and CEO of Southcoast Hospitals Group, Inc. in July 2008 and president and CEO of Southcoast Health System, Inc. in July 2011.

Hovan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Email Anastasia Lennon at alennon@newbedfordlight.org.

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