Lakeshore Hospital Authority's sweetheart deal gets sweeter. Berry now to cost $100,000 a year
Columbia County, FL (Posted March 24, 2011 010:10 am)
The salary committee meets to discuss Mr. Berry's salary. Sitting left to right: (Left to right: Mr. Feagle; Mr. Powel; Mr. Naylor, Mr. Berry, Ms. Fraze)
Yesterday afternoon, Columbia County proved once again that when it comes to good ol' boy wizardry, the County hasn't lost its touch. At 2 pm, a committee consisting of Hospital Authority Attorney, Marlin Feagle, Hosp Auth Financial Advisor/Accountant/External Auditor, Richard Powell, met with Columbia County Bank President and LSHA Board member, Bruce Naylor, to decide how much the unqualified – unverified former Republican Chieftain, Jackson P. Berry, was to make as he transcended from board member, to part time employee, to a full time employee, in a job created by the County's good ol' boys, just for him.
From 1996 until 2009 Columbia County's Lakeshore Hospital Authority was administered by a Governor appointed Board and one employee, Sue Fraze, who coordinated between Shands and the Hosp Auth Board, wrote the checks, did general bookkeeping and qualified the indigent, which the tax payers of Columbia County support to the tune of approximately $3.5 million dollars a year, with a tax rate, which historically has been one of the highest in the state.
On the Board since 2004, Mr. Berry's oversight cost $12,000
Mr. Berry, the Auditor and the Attorney watched for years as the Authority did not contribute to the Florida State Retirement System, causing a $12,000 penalty, when the Board decided to add Ms. Fraze to the system.
At the 2009-10 budget hearing, Mr. Berry made the questionable claim that he discovered the mistake. The fine was kept secret from the public for almost a year, when the Board decided to pay the fine.
When questioned by the Observer about this obvious omission, Mr. Berry insinuated that it was former Board member and County Commissioner, George Skinner, who may have been responsible.
In 2009, with the economy tanking and Florida's unemployment rate reaching 11%, the claims of the indigent and those losing their medical benefits were skyrocketing. In December of 2009, the Hosp Auth hired Cynthia Watson to give long time employee and de facto Authority Manager, Sue Fraze a needed hand.
For the first time since 1996, the Hosp Authority had two employees.
In 2009, Mr. Berry resigns - then hired by the Authority
On October 9, 2009, Jack Berry unexpectedly resigned from the Authority. The word on the street was that there were plans afoot to hire him ASAP.
In August of 2010, the Authority hired another employee, who some believe was hired so that Mr. Berry would have more than two people to manage. The Authority now had three employees.
In April 2010, after months of job description discussion, make believe interviews and resume evaluations, Mr. Berry was given the not unexpected nod to be the Authority's first part time manager at $60,000 (including benefits) a year for 24 unverified hours a week.
With Florida's economy continuing to tank, Mr. Berry auctioned off his businesses.
During the October 2010 Authority meeting, Mr. Berry announced to the Authority that he would be available to go on the payroll full time.
The unelected Authority Board, minus Board member, Audré Washington, thought this was a grand idea and the good ol' boys rolled into high gear to get Mr. Berry on the payroll full time.
After two tries and two rounds of evaluations; after the State Attorney, Skip Jarvis, covered up Authority Public Record Law violations, yesterday's meeting went off without a hitch.
Only the taxpayers are suffering - Berry gets boost
Part time manager Berry, who claimed he wasn't looking for a raise (listen here) and claimed publically during at least two board meetings that he was working about 35 hours a week, never substantiated, was boosted from $46,675 to $76,125. Adding Mr. Berry's benefits, which include a contribution into the Florida State Retirement System of 14.57%, the former Republican Chieftain is now on the public payroll for a cost of just about $100,000 a year.
In Columbia County, it's good ol' boy business as usual.