Columbia County’s LSHA Out of Control
Racist Remark Proves Chairman
Jack Berry Unfit For Public Office
Columbia County Florida (posted Oct. 13, 2008)
By Stew Lilker
As Columbia County’s Lake Shore Hospital Authority floats on a sea of money, Chairman, Jack Berry, former chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party, former law enforcement officer, and the losing party in a lawsuit where he kept suing two County Commissioners for testifying against him in court, showed his character once again at the monthly meeting of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority (the Authority) on October 6th by disgracing all Americans and especially people of color.
Mr. Berry, a legend in Columbia County and widely known as one of the “good olde boys” took over as chairman of the Authority in October of 2007, from board member, Dr. Robin Hall. Mr. Berry immediately began digging in his heels by refusing to answer publicly asked questions, demanding that all questions be asked in writing by Freedom of Information Requests, and then saw to it that a policy was instituted, wherein a fee would be charged for even the simplest answers.
The October 6, 2008, Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA) meeting began quietly with the Board and staff having a few refreshments. Your reporter, as usual, was the only resident of the County to publicly ask questions of the Authority Board, a board that is appointed by the Governor.
Floating on a sea of working family dollars, the LSHA is answerable
to no one, while the Authority auditor is also their accountant..
The LSHA, while floating on a sea of Columbia County taxpayer dollars, seems answerable to no one, particularly the working families of Columbia County, who pay the freight and believe their tax dollars are being used to care for the county’s unfortunate and indigent.
The Authority’s latest hair brained scheme is to spend a million dollars on an administrative complex to house the authority’s one and only staff member. While the Authority has been working on this project for months, their plans change from day to day and they have never hired an architect.
Not surprisingly, the taxpayers have never been asked if they are in agreement with being taxed so that the Authority can go into competition with the county’s private health car provider, North Florida Regional’s Lake City Medical Center or become downtown Lake City’s largest land developer.
After the questioning began, it was clear that once again, Mr. Berry was not about to be answering any questions and began stonewalling and looking at his watch immediately, as the rest of the board just sat silently in their seats. The Chairman’s offensive behavior, seemingly does not offend even one Board member.
The Observer asked a few questions (see transcript for unedited version) and then asked the Chairman:
This is a matter of great public concern. In the last budget we have ... an audit fee of six thousand dollars and then we have nine thousand dollars tacked on there additionally. “Additionally, hourly services, billed as incurred, including $2,000 allowance for unforeseen additional services.”
... Mr. Powell of Powell and Jones is a highly respected auditing, accounting firm in Florida. But I’m a little confused of how we have the auditor doing the books and sitting in at all these meetings and getting $9,000 additional; why it is and we’ve all heard of Enron and all these things, that we have the auditor checking his own work, for $9,000 additional a year. I would think that would be an arms length transaction.
Arthur Anderson you might recall, did the books for Enron and Arthur Anderson is no more. You might also recall if you listen to the news, Mr. Chairman, the country is now at least a trillion dollars in debt, because no one was watching the store... I would like to know how this board can have the auditor and the accountant as the same person ... and clearly you do because you’re paying for it.
Mr. Berry is over the top and should resign or be removed.
Can you answer that question? Anybody on the board?
The Observer asked, “Mr. Chairman is anybody allowed to answer any of these questions at these meetings?”
Board Chairman, Jack Berry answered, “If they’re free, white and over twenty-one.
When the Observer questioned the remark, Mr. Berry told the Observer, “Mr. Lilker, your time is up.”
The Observer has queried some of the County’s respected citizen’s for their reaction to Mr. Berry’s remarks.
Beat Reporter, Tony Britt (closest to camera), of the Lake City Reporter, covers the Hospital Authority meetings for Columbia County’s only daily newspaper.
Tony Britt of The Lake City Reporter, Columbia County’s only daily newspaper, covered the meeting. Mr. Britt, who was within easy earshot of Mr. Berry’s remarks, did not return calls, nor did the newspaper report Mr. Berry’s remarks.
Ms. Donna Lindboe, reflecting the views of many Lake City residents, told the Observer, “It’s horrible, it’s absolutely horrible. No public official should be talking like that. The Governor should remove him.
Ms. Audre’ Washington, the LSHA board’s only African American member told the Observer, “I didn’t hear it. I requested a copy of the tape. If anyone says anything that is offensive to me, I will act. I have spoken to Marlin [LSHA Attorney, Marlin Feagle] about this.”
County Commissioner George Skinner told the Observer,” No public official should ever speak like that. It doesn’t show leadership. It is the wrong way to speak to people. The Governor should absolutely investigate this. If the Governor finds he said it, he should be kicked off the board.
Mr. Glynell Presley of the NAACP said, “In this day and age it is absolutely incredible to think that someone appointed by the Governor could say something like that. One must wonder if Mr. Berry can see what is going on in America today.