Lake Shore Hospital Authority Clams Up
Berry Defies Public Accountability
Columbia County Florida (posted Oct. 13, 2008)
By Stew Lilker
Until the Observer began attending Lake Shore Hospital Authority meetings no one from the public attended and no one ever asked questions. Last year, one high ranking government official (name withheld) did ask the Observer how the LSHA could keep raising taxes as its income was increasing and it had millions in the bank.
n August 11th of this year the die was set, when before the monthly meeting began, the Observer gave the Board five simple written questions concerning LSHA business. LSHA Attorney, Marlin Feagle and the LSHA outside auditor/accountant, Richard Powell, read over the questions. They both sat at the board table conversing with each other about which questions they could answer that evening.
Ms. Dorothy Pattison has been the only member of the LSHA Board who has publicly stated that the Hospital Authority is there to help and care for the indigent.
Moments before the meeting was called to order, Mr. Berry leaned back and said something to Board Attorney, Mr. Feagle. Then, with a smug look on his face, Chairman Berry called the meeting to order.
When Chairman Berry asked for public comment, your reporter explained, “I submitted these questions to the board. I was hoping that I could get a few answers tonight.”
After being totally non responsive to questions like how much money does the Authority have in the bank how much have you spent on acquiring property Mr. Berry claimed that those questions would be answered in writing, by him in ten days.
Your reporter read a question. The question that went right to the heart of the Authority and the pockets of the working families of Columbia County: At an earlier meeting, Ms. Pattison said that the main charge of the Board and the Authority is the care of the indigent. Is this accurate? If not, what is it that you are now doing with the taxes that you collect from the working families of Columbia County? Do you believe that the people that pay the taxes have a right to know where their money is being spent and where your future revenues will be spent?
Chairman Berry sat in stone cold silence looking at his watch. The rest of the Board seemed to be struck dumb.
Your reporter observed, “I guess you can answer that tonight. Not all members of the board might have the same opinion.”
Again, Mr. Berry claimed that he would answer the question. It was unclear how he would be able to answer for the rest of the board members on what they thought was the purpose of the Authority.
The Observer told the Board: “There are thirty thousand tax payers in the county that could have questions about how the authority is run. My question is, when they have a question and they come to this board, how do they get an answer? You will not answer any questions now from the public, which is something new in my tenure of watching public officials. I’ve never seen this before.”
Chairman Berry sat silent, lips pursed, as the Observer asked, “I guess you’re just not going to answer?”
Mr. Berry looked at his watch.
The Observer said, “So in that case, I guess it would be foolish for anybody to come here and ask questions.”
The unconscionable behavior of Chairman Berry, a Jeb Bush appointee, continued throughout the September 2008 Hospital Authority budget hearings, which mirrored his outrageous behavior of the August 11th, Hospital Authority meeting.
At the October 6th LSHA meeting, Lake Shore Hospital Authority Chairman, Jack Berry went over the top, proving once again that he is unfit for public service.