Lake Shore Hosp Auth: Transparency – What's That? Scott Appointed Bd Answerable to Nobody
Posted June 9, 2014, 10:55 am
Manager Berry (file photo)
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Jackson P. "Jack" Berry's Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA), with its Governor Scott appointed board, remains one of the least transparent public agencies in the State of Florida. For years, the Governor's appointees have not only shielded Mr. Berry from questions, but ensured the latest Board minutes, and everything else, would not be available on the Authority's website before its meetings.
If an individual shows up at a Board meeting and wants to see the minutes; individual consent agenda items; the check register; or proposed policy changes before board approval, Mr. Berry will say, "Put in a records request."
This evening's minimalist agenda agenda, arrows added, is from the LSHA website. Details are not easily available. Manager Berry will not scan documents, preferring to drive around town and drop them off.
While there is nothing in the FL Statutes that requires minutes approval, this Scott Board left it up to Mr. Berry to post or not to post the minutes and everything else, but there is more.
SB50 was supposed to make a difference
With the advent of Senator Joe Negron's SB50, the bill that was purportedly going to allow the public to be heard, some agencies have used SB50 as an opportunity to do just the opposite.
Board Chair Waseem Khan (file photo)
Jack Berry's Hospital Authority and the Scott Board, under the leadership of Board Chairman Dr. Waseem Khan, who claims residence in Columbia County; rents his house in Lake City; and has his homestead exemption in Alachua County, has taken creative avoidance to a new level.
SB50 allows the Board to set rules for public comment, which includes forms; time(s) when the public can be heard; and the amount of time an individual has to address the board.
While boards don't have to answer questions from the public the Columbia County, County Commission and the City Council of Lake City accommodate the public for answers to their comments and questions.
Berry, a public official who costs the public approximately $105,000 a year, has claimed that asking him questions is "interrogation."
At the LSHA answering the public's questions are a no-go
At Berry's Hospital Authority, you can be thrown out without warning. The January 9, 2013 rules are here.
The Authority hung up a sign in a corner stating that forms to speak must be turned in five minutes before its meetings.
There is no requirement for Board members to be at the meeting 5 minutes before it is convened.
This 5 minute rule for the public is not in the Authority's Board Approved Meeting Rules.
At the May 12, 2014 meeting your reporter, who is also a taxpayer of the Authority, went to hand in a form before the meeting began.
Chairman Khan, with a smirk, said, "It’s after the five minutes. You have to submit it 5 minutes before the meeting."
Your reporter asked, "Where does it say that?"
Authority Manager Berry responded, "It’s in the rules."
There were still a few minutes to go before the meeting began. There was not a quorum present.
Your reporter to Chairman Khan, "That’s bizarre."
Chairman Khan responded, "No it isn’t bizarre. You’re bizarre."
A couple of minutes later Khan called the meeting to order when a board member showed up. “We have a quorum,” he said.
Not one of the board members, all Governor Scott appointees, said a word.