Lake Shore Hosp Auth Scott-Appointed Board Nixes Questions – Approves Nonexistent Agenda
Posted July 22, 2014 01:35 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last Monday night, July 14, the Governor Scott appointed Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board demonstrated again that when it comes to transparency and accountability it is the worst public agency in Columbia County. The Authority Board members and its General Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, continue to refuse to answer questions from the public; refuse to post agenda material on the Authority website; and continue to make public record access almost impossible by limiting public record inspections to only one hour a day, early in the morning. During Monday's July 14 meeting the Board came up with a new trick when it approved the nonexistent consent agenda. (file photo: Jack Berry)
The stifling of public comments began in 2012
On June 11, 2012, Elizabeth Porter's Chief of Staff and Authority Board Chairman, Koby Adams, nixed public comments at Lake Shore Hospital Authority meetings. The ban was kept in place by the next Authority Board Chairman, Dr. Waseem Khan.
Eventually, the Authority Board members were foiled by Senate Bill 50, which was supposed to give the public "a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a 'proposition' before the board."
The Florida League of Cities wrote: "The bill does not define 'proposition,' but it is likely intended to be broadly applied to include all matters coming before the board or commission."
Before last Monday's meeting got underway, your reporter addressed the issue of public comment with Board Chairman, Dr. Waseem Khan.
The Observer asked, "This is the only political subdivision in the county that doesn't take questions from the public: the only one. How could that be?"
Chairman Khan quipped, "We're unique."
Hospital Manager Berry added, "We're not the county."
Your reporter observed, "You're the Hospital Authority, appointed by the Governor."
Manager Berry answered, "That's right."
Board member Koby Adams added, "Rick Scott, the Honorable Rick Scott."
Lately, the Honorable Rick Scott has been taking quite a bit of heat for not answering questions.
Bucket Full of Issues
In the past few months, a bucket full of issues have confronted the Authority: the realization of massive losses of value in Authority owned property; the termination of 18 yr veteran Sue Fraze in what now appears to have been a move orchestrated by Manager Berry to save the Authority money (he announced at the meeting he wasn't anticipating filling the vacant position anytime soon); and issues with public records and the First Amendment Foundation's finding that his credit check is not protected by federal confidentiality.
Last Thursday, Lake Shore Hospital Authority Attorney Marlin Feagle said he is going to get an opinion from a "federal attorney" regarding the release of Mr. Berry's credit report.
When asked why he would not also go to the Florida Attorney General for an opinion Mr. Feagle was vague.
Authority Board approves nonexistent consent agenda
At approximately 48 minutes into the meeting, Board Chairman Waseem Khan asked for the approval of the consent agenda.
It passed unanimously without comment.
Twenty four minutes later, as the meeting was gaveled to a close, Board member Chancy had a question. "What about these?" she asked.
Manager Berry responded, "What about em'?"
Ms. Chancy asked, "Are we going to pay em'?"
Manager Berry asked, "What is it?"
Board member Koby Adams volunteered, "It's invoices for a contractor."
Manager Berry said, "For the contractor. They're already -- I mean -- they -- you don't have to approve em'. That's on the consent agenda. They're on contract."
Ms. Chancy responded, "Ok – OK – all right."
Manager Berry concluded, "We just courtesy give you a copy of em'." (as spoken)
What were the invoices?
Four days after the meeting, on July 18, Manager Berry, after many emails, finally admitted there was no consent agenda.
Efforts to find out what items Board member Chancy questioned were to no avail.
Finally, at 3:28 this Monday afternoon, Manager Berry refused to reveal the items in question.
Your reporter had previously sent Mr. Berry a quotation from the public records law: "A good faith response includes making reasonable efforts to determine from other officers or employees within the agency whether such a record exists and, if so, the location at which the record can be accessed."
Rather than reveal the items, or inquire of Board member Chancy, Authority Manager Berry dug in and in an email wrote, "I am not going to play 20 Questions with you, I am to busy." (as written)