Lake Shore Hosp Auth: Violation of the Law and Public Trust Requires Action By the State Attorney
Illegal meeting on tap for tonight
Hospital Authority Manager Jackson P. "Jack" Berry.
Posted September 15, 2014 09:40 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The saga of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, overseen by Governor Rick Scott's handpicked board, and administered by former Authority board chairman, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, a republican political operative and former Repo Man, continues.
Authority Manager Berry failed to follow the Florida Special District Accountability Act for advertising the Lake Shore Hospital Authority meeting scheduled for tonight; failed to post a notice that the September 8th meeting was cancelled and rescheduled; failed to post the tentative Authority budget on the Authority's website; failed to post the Authority charter; and failed to post the addresses of the Board members. If it had one, the Authority's code of ethics is required to be on its website. It is not there.
The Uniform Special District Accountability Act and the Administrative Procedure Act secure minimum standards of accountability designed to inform the public and appropriate local general-purpose governments of the status and activities of special districts.
The Legislature intended that special districts, such as the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, "cooperate and coordinate their activities with the units of general-purpose local government in which they are located."
Tonight, September 15, 2014, the County 5; the City Council (meeting for its final budget hearing); and the Authority are all meeting. The Authority is meeting for its first budget hearing as well as a rescheduled meeting.
August 11, 2014:
Berry says yearly meetings advertised. They weren't.
During the last Lake Shore Hospital Authority meeting, long time Authority Attorney Marlin Feagle asked Authority Manager Berry if a schedule of yearly meetings was advertised. Manager Berry told him, "Yes."
Attorney Feagle continued, "One time we talked about advertising all our meetings in January."
Manager Berry replied, "We do that, but we would advertise this meeting."
Attorney Feagle, "This is a special [meeting]. OK. Correct. Sunshine."
According to Vicki at the Lake City Reporter, Columbia County's Official newspaper, there is no record of the Authority having advertised a yearly schedule of its 2014 meetings.
Missteps and illegalities by the Authority
The Florida Administrative Procedures Act (the Act) requires that the Authority post on the Authority's website notice of public meetings and hearings, not less than 7 days before the event. The notice must include a statement of the general subject matter to be considered. There was no posted notice of the cancellation of the September 8 meeting.
The agenda for tonight's Authority meeting was posted to the website on Friday afternoon, 3 days ago. It is virtually impossible to find.
According to the Act:
An agenda shall be prepared by the agency in time to ensure that a copy of the agenda may be received at least 7 days before the event by any person in the state who requests a copy and who pays the reasonable cost of the copy. The agenda, along with any meeting materials available in electronic form excluding confidential and exempt information, shall be published on the agency’s website. The agenda shall contain the items to be considered in order of presentation. After the agenda has been made available, a change shall be made only for good cause, as determined by the person designated to preside, and stated in the record. Notification of such change shall be at the earliest practicable time.
The Uniform Special District Accountability Act requires that the Authority advertisements "shall be placed in that portion of the newspaper where legal notices and classified advertisements appear. The advertisement shall appear in a newspaper that is published at least 5 days a week."
The Authority ad on September 10 advertising the date of the September 15 meeting was not placed "where legal notices and classified advertisements appear." The Authority did not run a stand-alone advertisement for the Budget Hearing, which is a separate meeting.
Florida's Sunshine Law requires reasonable notice of meetings. On August 11 the Authority changed the dates of the Board meeting and Budget Hearing from September 8 to September 15. The Authority waited until September 10, a month, to run a block ad, which was not where it belonged, with the new meeting dates. It never advertised any notification of the September 8 meeting cancellation.
Tentative budget must be posted on the Authority's website
The Uniform Special District Accountability Act states, "The tentative budget must be posted on the special district’s official website at least 2 days before the budget hearing... to consider such budget."
The Authority's tentative budget was not there at 6 am today.
The Lake Shore Hospital Authority under the direction of the Governor Scott appointed board and the administration of Authority Manager Berry has fallen down on the job, again and again.
The Legislature has found that special districts operate to serve a public purpose and that "this is best secured by certain minimum standards of accountability designed to inform the public and appropriate local general-purpose governments of the status and activities of special districts."
Legislation requires "each independent special district to report its financial and other activities" and "that failure may result in action against the officers" of the Authority.
The Lake Shore Hospital Authority, by its actions, has violated the public trust the Legislature acted to insure.
It is time for the State Attorney to see that the Lake Shore Hospital complies with the law and the intent of the legislature.