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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Lake Shore Hosp Auth:  Jackson P. "Jack" Berry. A public official who can't take the heat.


In Sept of 2010, Jack Berry took of some time away from his $60k a year part time desk at the Authority and spent it at City Hall. His wardrobe speaks for itself.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Lake Shore Hospital Authority's (LSHA) Jackson P. "Jack" Berry is North Florida's quintessential public figure and public official. He is known far and wide through political and public careers that span almost four decades. Jack Berry has failed in quests for public office multiple times. After being fired he sued the Columbia County Sheriff in Federal Court for violating his civil rights and lost. During the presidential campaign of George W. Bush he bullied two little old ladies because they didn't agree with him.

Mr. Berry is the former Republican chieftain in Suwannee and Columbia Counties. He was Gov. Jeb Bush's appointee to the LSHA and its former chairman. He sued two county commissioners because he didn't agree that they should be able to testify against him. The case was finally dismissed, with prejudice, at great expense to both the defendants and the court, which had to bring in an impartial judge from another circuit.

Unlike other public officials and public figures, Jack Berry is a man who can't take the heat.

Taking the heat is what public officials do in America


A year later, Jack Berry was now full time at approximately $100,000 a year. Here he is representing the the Authority at an Economic Dev. Board meetings a short way down the hall from his office.

On June 12, 2012, published on line for all the world to see, Gordon Hilgers on Salon.com, in an article Big Shot Rick Scott  wrote, "Not only does he look like a skinhead, he’s acting like one. After all, his radical, roughshod ride over the rights of Latinos, Blacks and poor people to vote is, only naturally, based on the implicit Republican fear that they won’t be able to convince poor people that plutocracy is the way to go."

Governor Rick Scott, who in person is a very personable guy, did not run to his lawyers and sue the author for defamation. The Republican Party did not run to their lawyers and sue for slandering the Republican name, nor did the Governor sue on behalf of the Republican Party.

In America, it is a rare event indeed when public officials sue when the press reports, comments, or criticizes them in their official capacity; or when they are criticized by a citizen. For Jack Berry, it is not rare, it is a pattern.

It is not hard to imagine the outcome if the Observer had used similar phrasing to describe Mr. Berry.

More LSHA
stories are here.

Jack Berry can't take the heat

On March 15, 2011, the Observer wrote in an article titled, Lakeshore Hosp Authority gives Berry the nod 6 to 1, ignores unprofessionalism, that Mr. Berry obliterated the public record laws and was rude and obnoxious to citizen Barbara Lemley.

Jack Berry, the quintessential public figure and a man who can't take the heat, sued the Observer for defamation of a character that many may not consider exactly sterling.

Jack Berry can't take criticism; doesn't want the LSHA criticized

On May 28, 2012, Progress Florida wrote about Gov Scott, "With little fanfare, Scott is undertaking an audacious plan to kick thousands of Floridians off the ballot just before this year’s elections." The Governor did not sue anybody.

On March 24, 2011, the Observer ran the article, Lakeshore Hospital Authority's sweetheart deal gets sweeter. Berry now to cost $100,000 a year.

The Observer wrote: 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.

Jack Berry sued for defamation of his character. Mr. Berry's basis is explained this way in his lawsuit, "Jack Berry was hired by the Board after public advertising of the position, public debate, public interviews and public vote."

Even though Mr. Berry clearly recognized that the Observer's remarks were directed at the Governor appointed Board, he sued. Jack Berry is not the LSHA Board. Jack Berry can't take criticism and doesn't want the LSHA criticized, either.

Political heat, fair comment and a free press fuel the American system

On December 19, 2012, the Miami Herald published the following article, Charlie Crist trashes Gov. Rick Scott in Senate hearing over bad voting ‘joke’. In that article the following was written "...former Gov. Charlie Crist pointedly criticized Gov. Rick Scott during a U.S. Senate hearing Wednesday over an elections law that led to voting troubles and helped turn Florida into a “late-night TV joke.”

It is not very likely that Gov. Scott and Former Gov. Crist are going to be finding themselves in a courtroom very soon with charges against one or the other of slander, libel, defamation, false factuals, besmirching the good name of Florida or anything else for that matter. They are grown men.

However, if they are thinking about it, they need to speak to North Florida's quintessential public figure and official, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority's Jackson P. Berry for some pointers.

On June 12, 2012, the Observer published the following article, Lake Shore Hospital Authority: Secret procurement – No public comments allowed. The article was about recent procurement by the LSHA.

The man that can't take it, sued.

Mr. Berry's court papers are confused and his reason for suing the Observer for defamation is based on comments made about policies and practices of the Authority and a private company. In that article the Observer also wrote that the Authority was put under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Jack Berry also sued for defamation regarding that statement. It didn't mention him and he is not the Lake Shore Hospital Authority.

Epilogue

One would think that Lake Shore Hospital Authority Manager and quintessential public figure, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, after almost four decades on the North Florida political landscape as a public figure; candidate; political operative; political party chairman; Governor appointee; and public official would have learned to take the heat and criticism that goes along with someone in his position.

The publically supported Lake Shore Hospital Authority no longer allows any public comment or questions at its meetings.

The good ole boy politics of Columbia County and the Third Judicial Circuit are legendary. When folks hear or read about the lawsuits, disrespect of the public, or the shenanigans of a public figure like Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, the remark is usually, "What do you expect, it's Columbia County."

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