After more than two years searching for a permanent Chief Executive Officer, the Broward Health Board began it interview process today with the first two of four finalists.
Perhaps the seminal moment came at the end of each interview with a question from Chairman Rodreguez. He asked plainly – where does quality start [at Broward health]?
The interviewees wisely sidestepped the question through a patient care perspective because the correct answer – that quality starts with the Board and senior management would necessarily open a difficult and impolitic discussion about the pending indictments of two of the five Board members, the corporate counsel, and the current interim CEO.
Some of the Board member questions made it evident that they still fail to understand or appreciate the fundamental truth of Broward Health.
The Fundamental Truth – Broward Health is a public enterprise which is so much more than just a hospital system to the community. It is a healthcare safety net. It is an economic engine providing jobs and training in the community. It provides career paths and opportunities to our educational footprint. It is an organization that is entirely owned by and serves the public reinvesting profits and people into our community. Broward Health is not a private hospital system that does some charity work.
Neither the Broward Health Board nor its management believes this truth.
Decades ago, Fort Lauderdale leaders established the Hospital System on public lands and with public monies because they did not want their health care left up to market forces which at the time were failing to serve the community. Over time, this system became the public’s “safety net” in an overly complex health care fabric. Out of these public seeds grew one of the largest hospital systems in the country – Broward Health. A publicly owned, publicly managed, public health care system with over 6,000 mostly dedicated employees that was and is the envy of private interests that everyday covet Broward Health’s assets and money. I wrote an article about Broward Health’s beginnings which you can read or reread by clicking here.
This history is important because the current Board of Commissioners and senior management appear to be doing everything they can to privatize and consume the public’s health care assets for both private and political gain while making a concerted effort to exclude any public oversight or participation.
The Current Broward Health Board
It’s a broad brush, so let me be a little more specific and, at least for the time being, exclude the two newest Board appointments from criticism. Both Andrew Klein and Nancy Gregoire appear thus far to be not only remarkably competent but skeptical about management and recent Board actions, and they should be. It is a good thing that they do not appear to accept management’s and legal’s representations on face value. I hope they will continue to listen to what staff is telling them with some skepticism and more importantly listen to what staff is not telling them. Time will tell.
While I had some hope for Steven Wellins, the third newest Board appointment, that hope has mostly evaporated. He is a senior officer with Well Fargo Bank which has many entanglements with Broward Health which required Mr. Wellins to recuse himself on some important matters. But more importantly, he appears to gulp the cool-aide and become more a cheerleader than someone with serious public oversite responsibilities.
Christopher “Guy Weston” Ure
Commissioner Ure, or as I call him “Guy Weston” is a person of low moral character even for an insurance salesman masquerading as a “wealth manager.” Not only was he indicted for willful violations of Florida’s Sunshine laws, but he is also still under investigation for additional official misconduct as detailed in my “Commissioner Ure = Bully Busted” article. Not only does he not get it, but he also will never get it. As long as he is on the Board, he will be a public embarrassment to Governor Scott and us.
Chairman Rocky Rodriguez is and has been my friend for more than 35 years. He cares about the community and selflessly serves. He’s in trouble because he has been and I believe legal counsel Lynn Barrett and others continue to mislead him with poor advice. Rocky is just too trusting for the job. He was correctly indicted on Sunshine violations, and he should have known better. I feel sorry for my friend.
The Governor continues his more than two-year refusal to fulfill his constitutional obligation to make appointments to complete the seven Broward Health member Board. His irresponsibility will certainly be a campaign issue should he finally announce his much rumored and expected candidacy for United States Senate. Certainly, the more than 6,000 health care employees and close to 1,000 physicians, not to mention the many vendors and suppliers that the Governor’s failure in appointing Board members has adversely affected will be a potent political block. Not smart Governor!
With this backdrop, the Board interviewed it’s first two candidates. Here is the meeting:
December 20, 2017, Broward Health Regular Board Meeting
[Updated 12/21/17: 8:00a.m.]
In an otherwise non-descript regular meeting of the Broward Health Board of Commissioners, an orchestrated kumbaya for Broward Health’s Board with Broward Health’s outside counsels and a senior staff member allegedly representing the employees strangely began the usually silent public comments item at the start of the meeting.
Former Attorney General Bob Butterworth began the public comments by extolling the virtues of the Board, omitting the fact that he is on their payroll and likely being paid for his time. Bob has been my friend ever since he was appointed Mayor of Sunrise, then appointed Sheriff of Broward County, all prior to his election as Attorney General. To be fair, some of his laudatory comments carry some truth, but not for all the board and certainly not for all of the indicted. However, in fairness – he should have made it clear he was praising his bosses.
Next came Mr. Mitchell, another Broward Health outside counsel working with Butterworth who huffed and puffed about how unjust the Grand Jury was to his clients, I couldn’t help but think of Richard Gere singing Razzle- dazzle in the musical Chicago.,
Roxie, you got nothing to worry about.
It’s all a circus, kid. A three ring circus.
These trials- the whole world- all show business.
But kid, you’re working with a star, the biggest!
Give ’em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle ’em
Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give ’em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather ’em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
Seemingly to prove his point, he exclaimed in a disingenuous voice – that he had a witness that would vindicate the indicted and that Mike Satz knew about the witness and did not subpoena him to appear before the grand jury. What injustice! Well, what he did not share with those assembled in the meeting was that the witness was indeed invited to appear before the grand jury but refused to do so without immunity. The same was true for Bob Butterworth.
So it begs the question; why wouldn’t they appear without immunity? Well, I think the question answers itself.
The State Attorney, Michael Satz, and his assistant state attorney Tim Donnelly showed remarkable restraint in only indicting those charged with violations of the sunshine laws. I am told that there are currently other matters under investigation and perhaps we will hear more in the near future. That being said, one has to wonder what the purpose of having Broward Health’s outside counsel come to address the board as part of public comments instead of the more dignified, and appropriate time as part of Broward Health’s regular Corporate Counsel’s report. Oh, I forgot, the corporate counsel no longer gives a report. Used to be… but that’s for a future article.
Then the meeting got interesting, starting with the articulate Senator Perry Thurston who wondered out loud why there seem to be some rules if you are black and other rules if you are white.
“The leaders of Broward Health sat stone-faced Wednesday afternoon as several black leaders accused them of hypocrisy for clinging to their positions despite the indictments that shook the public hospital system. Four people at the table — two board members, the general counsel and the interim chief…”
There were a few other curious matters during this meeting into which I need to do some investigation, but I want to post this as quickly as I could so I will end the post here.
By Dan Christensen,FloridaBulldog.org – More whistleblowing at Broward Health as board meeting with indicted commissioners and counsel draws near.
…”The latest case, filed in Broward Circuit Court Dec. 8, accuses Broward Health, through General Counsel Lynn Barrett, of firing former CEO Pauline Grant on Dec. 1, 2016 “in retaliation for actions she took in an attempt to investigate and remedy misfeasance and malfeasance within the public agency.”
…”Also still unfolding is Broward Health Commission Chairman David Di Pietro’s politically explosive whistleblower complaint, first reported by Florida Bulldog in September. In an amended complaint, Di Pietro has included more information about alleged political influence and bribery.”…
On December 12th, the Broward County Grand Jury indicted Broward Health Board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, Commissioner Christopher Ure, former Commissioner Linda Robison, General Counsel Lynn Barrett and Broward Health Interim CEO/President and former Commissioner Beverly Capasso for violating Florida’s Sunshine Laws as well as conspiracy to violate Florida’s Sunshine Laws.
Broward State Attorney Mike Satz and assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly should be thanked for representing the public interests in bringing these indictments. It took courage and character. Knowing something about the circumstances surrounding these indictments – I have no doubt that in a fair trial by either a jury or judge – there with be convictions or plea-bargained settlements.
Before I get to my analysis, let me “set the table” for my discussion.
Count I of the Indictment alleges that the four commissioners met out of the public eye through conduits or intermediaries to hold defacto meetings at a hotel, restaurant, and/or by telephone to discuss a “reportable event” allegedly committed by them North Broward Hospital District Interim CEO/President Pauline Grant, prior to the District’s December 1, 2016, Special Board Meeting
Count II of the Indictment alleges that the four commissioners violated the Sunshine Law at the December 1, 2016 Special Board Meeting by not properly noticing to the public the proposition and action they took regarding the termination of Pauline Grant
Count III of the Indictment alleges that General Counsel Lynn Barrett solicited the commissioners to violate the Florida Sunshine Law.
Count IV of the Indictment alleges that the General Counsel and the Commissioners conspired to violate the Florida Sunshine Law.
In reaction to the indictments, my friend Robert Butterworth (Counsel for Broward Health and former Florida Attorney General) and Roberto Martinez issued the following ill-advised statement.
Media Statement from Robert A. Butterworth and Roberto Martínez regarding action taken by the Broward County State Attorney:
This is the most misguided prosecution we have ever seen.
Instead of protecting the new management and commissioners at the North Broward Health District, who have been intimidated and harassed while cooperating with federal and state law enforcement officers to root out corruption and violations of the federal health care laws, the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) allowed itself to be manipulated by the very same people who were replaced because of their mismanagement and corruption. The SAO deliberately disregarded the reports of the federally mandated Independent Review Organization issued to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services describing the pattern of obstruction and other potential violations of the laws by some former executives and commissioners.
This deeply flawed investigation was predetermined, biased, and manipulated from the start.
The SAO’s professed interest about enforcing the Sunshine Laws is contradicted by its refusal to subpoena the most critical witness to the grand jury that has essential exculpatory evidence about defendants’ compliance with the Sunshine Laws.
All the defendants are innocent and will be exonerated at the trial.
Let’s be clear. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck – sometimes, it’s a duck!
First the obvious. Of course – to any reasonable person, the Board and Lynn Barrett violated the sunshine laws. The record of the December 1st, 2016 special board meeting could not reasonably support any other explanation for the instantaneous, abrupt and draconian actions taken completely absent any deliberation or discussion.
A Pattern of indifference
As in any case, the problem is proof of the obvious – and for that, the Grand Jury heard testimony apparently sufficient to indict. Since the replacement of the very capable Corporate Counsel Sam Goren in 2015 with the current Counsel Lynn Barrett, Broward Health talks about transparency yet has established a pattern of apparent bush-league Sunshine violations from the failure to properly notice meetings, action on agenda walk-on items without sufficient cause, failure to provide meeting materials to the public and providing the public an opportunity speak to every agenda item. Routinely, public matters are discussed in “strategic” shade meetings like the advertising and marketing contracts with “Outside Eyes”, and “Zimmerman” as well as a variety of district priorities and their associated budgets. I have written may posts about these issues over the last three years (See my archived Posts). These continual violations have been without consequence so it is not difficult to understand that when a potential real problem requiring Board Action arises – why not just do what is expedient. At Broward Health, too often it appears that to management and Miss Barrett, in particular- the end justifies the means.
While historically there have been Sunshine miss steps at Broward Health prior to Miss Barrett, the team of Board Chair DiPietro, CEO Nabil El Sanadi, and General Counsel Barrett made a mockery of the Sunshine Laws, transparency, the system’s financial stability and any public accountability let alone participation. Competent staff were driven away or purged, important clinical programs and initiatives were abandoned in favor of “special deals”, and of course – the flag ship deal of “Outside Eyes” and Zimmerman advertising linking Broward Health politically and financially with DiPietro, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca (now candidate for a state house seat). You will recall that the legacy of at least part of this deal was a reportable event in the opinion of the Independent Reporting Organization (IRO). I spent some time documenting these matters contemporaneously and if have read any of my past posts you know that I could add to the above list with many more examples of mismanagement. (I have reason to believe that “other agencies” still have this particular issue under investigation..)
The reason I digress historically is that it is this mismanagement that is Broward Health’s greatest challenge today, and one of the Board Commissioners was there through it all; Chairman Rocky Rodriguez. Rocky has been my friend for more than three decades, and I can tell you absolutely that Rocky would not knowingly violate Florida’s Sunshine laws yet I believe he absolutely did violate the sunshine laws. How could this happen? In my view, he was given bad advice that he would be acting within the law. But Rocky should have known better. Rocky did know better.
Rocky’s other problem is that obligations under the Sunshine Laws are personal which means that he is not entitled to legal representation provided by Broward Health and he cannot receive legal assistance as a gift due to gift limitations of public officials. If he is acquitted by a court, he can recover his legal fees – but I don’t believe he will be acquitted if he goes to trial.
Rocky’s final problem is that the same policy the board used to oust Paulene Grant, a reportable event as the basis of a demand for a resignation or removal from office – applies to himself. Under this circumstance, his failure to resign will likely trigger even more legal issues. I’m truly sorry for my friend Rocky, but the rules have to apply to everyone or they apply to no-one.
Rocky’s dilemmas apply equally to Commissioner Ure. But unlike Rocky who I know to be honorable, in my opinion, Ure is not. In addition to Mr. Ure Sunshine problems, there is the little matter of apparent ethical breaches discussed in my “Commissioner Ure – Bully Busted!” post on my http://www.brwdhealth.com blog that remains pending.
“Hoisted by their own Petard”.
Similar to the additional issues potentially facing Commissioner Ure, Counsel Lynn Barrett and interim CEO Capasso face removal by the Board should the Board apply the same standards they used to justify the removal of interim CEO Paulene Grant. The adopted policy requires those accused of a crime defined as a reportable event in the Federal Consent Agreement (CIA) must resign or be terminated. This stark and uncompromising policy was adopted by the Board to comply with the CIA’s requirement that Broward Health promulgates policies to enforce the consent agreement. It will be interesting to see if the rules apply to everyone or just those who question Lynn Barrett.
No doubt, as an additional matter – Counsel Lynn Barrett will also face a number of bar complaints relating to her actions “counseling” various board members to allegedly violate Florida’s sunshine laws. And we haven’t even begun to discuss the manner that Broward Health handles public records requests.
So, to summarize:
The obligations of Florida’s Sunshine Laws are personal.
Everyone who was indicted must use their own funds to defend their actions until a verdict.
Gift limitations for public official severely limit the accused from receiving “free” legal assistance, and the optics for attorneys with Broward Health relationships would be horrific if they provided legal assistance under any unusual or strange circumstances.
If a Court of competent jurisdiction acquits, their legal fees can be substantially recovered from Broward Health.
The Governor typically suspends public officials when they are charged with a crime. If the Governor follows his own policy, Commissioners Rodriguez and Ure will be suspended.
If the Governor does not suspend Commissioners Rodriguez and Ure, Broward Health’s own policy under the CIA would require them to resign – if the policy actually applies to everyone as they say.
Commissioner Ure probably faces other official actions relating to ethical issues
Interim CEO Capasso and General Council Barrett should be required to resign or be removed by the Board under Broward Health’s own CIA related policy.
Counsel Barrett probably faces multiple bar complaints relating to both ethical and professional issues raised.
As to my good friend Robert Butterworth and his colleague Roberto Martinez surprising media statement. It was as factually inaccurate as it was ill-advised on so many levels as will become apparent over the coming legal proceedings. One particularly misleading point in the statement was “refusal to subpoena the most critical witness”. While I have no specific information about the actions of the State Attorney’s office nor the Grand Jury and I am not an attorney – even I know that the State Attorney cannot “subpoena” someone without granting them immunity. I am certain that the State Attorney “invited” all Mr. Butterworth’s so-called witnesses to address the Grand Jury, but they chose not to do so without immunity.
I am certain that, contrary to Butterworth’s statement, the Grand Jury carefully did their duty and considered all the evidence as well as any exculpatory explanations before indicting. The point simply is this, these specific sunshine violations were not isolated events and are regular occurrences at Broward Health. I am convinced that the State Attorney will be able to show a pattern of indifference if not outright animosity to transparency, and the public’s right to know at Broward Health, our public hospital system.
Sadly, I don’t think the indicted will do anything but shamefully spend our tax dollars and continue to act disregarding the public’s right to know, and conducting the Broward Health’s business like a private republican enclave that is inconvenienced by its public responsibilities. When will the Broward Health Board and senior management realize that it is a Public Hospital System, and not Governor Scott’s private cat box?
Here are some of the published articles about the indictments, in case you missed any of them.
Indicted Broward Health officials attack Broward state attorney’s case WPLG Local 10 Capasso emailed the attorneys’ statement to all Broward Health employees on her account. All four officials are still in their offices. Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Rodriguez and other indicted board members, and is known to have a friendship with Barrett, is reviewing the case to determine whether he …
Indictments could disrupt Broward Health’s search for new CEO Becker’s Hospital Review Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Broward Health board members had planned to interview finalists for the position of CEO on Jan. 22. However, that process may be disrupted, as board chairman Rocky Rodriguez and four current and former leaders of the health system are scheduled to be arraigned on …
Officials At Broward Health Indicted On Charges Of Sunshine Law Violations WGCU News Top officials on the Broward Health System’s board have been indicted on counts of violating Florida’s open government law. … But a grand jury doesn’t think officials at Broward Health followed that law in late 2016 when individual meetings were held by board members just before a vote to fire then …
Criminal Charges For Broward Health Officials Could Affect CEO Search WLRN Broward Health operates five public hospitals that serve the majority of people living in central and northern Broward County. This week, five of the agency’s board members were indicted on charges of violating Florida’s open government law, also known as the Sunshine Law. The charges could affect …
5 Broward Health execs face criminal charges for conspiring to fire former CEO FierceHealthcare 5 Broward Health execs face criminal charges for conspiring to fire former CEO. by Ilene MacDonald |. Dec 14, 2017 10:28am. gavel and books. Attorneys for the hospital district and the organization’s general counsel said in a media statement that “this is the most misguided prosecution we have ever …
Power Lunch: Just one Irma-related price-gouging complaint settled Sun Sentinel When it arraigns, it pours: Leaders at Broward Health had been looking forward to Jan. 22, when they would interview candidates for chief executive officer, the Sun Sentinel’s David Fleshler reports. Now, that’s the date many of them will be arraigned on charges of violating Florida’s open-meetings law.
On December 14th, 2017, the Broward Health Joint Conference Committee met. Board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez was joined by the two newest members of the Broward Health Board; Andrew Klein, and Nancy Gregoire. Based on what I have seen thus far, these two new Board appointments make me cautiously optimistic about Broward Health’s future.
Although the audio had some problems part way through the meeting recording (apparently someone was unknowingly stepping on a cable), the meeting had some pretty important discussions.
“Gov. Rick Scott last year suspended two Broward Health board members based on a letter from his inspector general. He should similarly suspend two board members indicted by a grand jury last week on charges of conspiring to violate the Sunshine Law.”
“If everything was on the up and up, as their lawyers insist, why did board members at Broward Health secretly meet at a hotel, a restaurant and over the phone with attorneys dishing dirt on their interim CEO?”…
…”And it’s unfair to ask taxpayers to trust an organization led by people under criminal indictment.”..
By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org – A Broward grand jury has indicted Broward Health’s top leadership for Sunshine Law violations.
“P.M. UPDATE: Broward Health’s top leadership, including its CEO and board chairman, are named in a four count indictment alleging violations of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law.”
“Florida Bulldog has obtained a copy of the four-page indictment Tuesday that accuses five defendants – Broward Health CEO Beverly Capasso, Commission Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, Commissioner Christopher Ure, former Commissioner Linda Robison and general counsel Lynn Barrett – of conspiring to violate Florida’s public meetings law, also known as the Government-in-the-Sunshine law.”
“Capasso, Rodriguez, Ure and Robison were also charged with two counts of violating the public meetings law. Barrett also was charged alone in one count that accuses her of solicitation to violate the Sunshine Law.”
By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org – A state grand jury could ‘indict them all’ for Sunshine Law violations at Broward Health
“A state grand jury investigation of alleged Sunshine Law violations at taxpayer-supported Broward Health appears to be wrapping up, and sources familiar with what’s happening say one or more indictments are likely.”
“… Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly is leading the grand jury’s investigation, which is unfolding as a parallel federal grand jury looks at suspicious purchasing practices at Broward Health. Florida Bulldog reported in February 2016 that the federal grand jury had subpoenaed Broward Health records about former procurement officer Brian Bravo and 16 companies, including MedAssets, which was a publicly traded, Georgia-based group purchasing organization.” ..
After Thanksgiving, it was a busy week for Broward Health with a flurry of committee and board meetings. I was able to attend most with my borrowed 4K video camera. These meetings can now be viewed and used for your edification, self improvement or as a sleep aide. Comments & Tips always welcome!
Given the backdrop of the Grand Jury looking into Broward Health (set to end on December 13th), and the acknowledgement of some that the ever present video camera has served to bring a bit of new accountability to these meeting – it is startling that there appears to be a growing rift between corporate and the medical staff. Anyway, I’ll leave that for another post where I will do some catch-up analysis of the “new” Broward Health.
In the meantime, here are the meetings and backup agenda excerpts.
“Lawyers for fired Broward Health chief executive Pauline Grant filed a pair of public records requests on the district in May that they believed might shed light on her sudden dismissal last December. Six months later, Broward Health hasn’t produced a single requested document in response.”
… “That legal tab is sure to climb even higher. Besides the two outside law firms Broward Health has hired in the public records case – the Miami firms of Foley & Lardner and Zumpano Castro – the district has retained a string of additional high-profile lawyers, including more from Foley, to represent individual defendants in related civil litigation brought by Grant. Here are some of those lawyers and their Broward Health clients:
Scott Richardson of West Palm Beach for Interim CEO (and former board member) Beverly Capasso. Richardson’s clients have included Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Roberto Martinez and Stephanie Casey of the Coral Gables law firm Colson Hicks Eidson for General Counsel Lynn Barrett. Martinez is a well-known Republican and former U.S. Attorney.
Bruce Lyons of Fort Lauderdale for board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez. Lyons is a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Andrew Levi of Miami’s Lehr, Levi & Mendez for board member Christopher Ure.
Eric Adams and Mark Rankin of the Tampa office of Shutts & Bowen for Commissioner Linda Robison. Like Adams and Rankin, Robison is a partner at Shutts & Bowen.”