Lake Shore Hosp Auth: Berry Calls
Cops - Again
LCPD: "They can kick out whoever they want."
Posted October 14, 2014 11:50 pm | (1 comment)
LCPD's Troiano and Waddington discuss the ejection of 4 citizens from the Authority building.
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board Chairman, Dr. Waseem Khan, sat by as Authority Manager, Jackson P. “Jack” Berry, called the cops to have thrown out from the Authority lobby and into the street, the Lake City Reporter’s Tony Britt, two citizens and your reporter. The Board had gone into an executive (secret)session in the Board room to discuss a public records law suit.
The Board's final item of business last night was an executive session to discuss whether or not the Board wanted to appeal the decision of Acting Circuit Court Judge, William B. Williams, who recently ruled against the Authority and Manager Berry in a public records law suit brought by the Columbia County Observer's publisher.
The Chairman asked everyone to leave the room
Board Chairman Khan read the required list of people who would be attending the closed (to the public) session and then said, "I am going to have to ask everyone that wasn't mentioned to leave the room."
The Lake City Reporter's veteran reporter, Tony Britt, asked Chairman Khan for a copy of what he read. Chairman Khan looked like he was going to give him a copy.
Your reporter asked, "Do you have two copies?"
Authority Manager Berry interceded, "We can't get it right now. We'll get it for you in the mornin'."
Two of the three members of the Authority's office staff were in the office.
Reporter Britt responded, "In the morning?"
Long time Board Attorney Marlin Feagle, mentioned, "It's a public record," without even showing Mr. Britt his copy.
A little while later, Reporter Britt told the Observer, "You can’t read a public document at a public meeting and not allow the people to see it. They're just throwing our First Amendment Rights out into the street. This is ridiculous."
The Public Left the Chambers: Berry Called the Cops
Reporter Tony Britt, residents Barbara Lemley and Ralph Kitchens, and your reporter left the Authority chambers through the large waiting room at the chamber's entrance, and walked through the double doors, which closed off both rooms from the public, and took the available seats in the lobby, the public space at the Authority entrance.
The view from the street: the lobby; the double doors; behind doors the Authority chambers' waiting room; then chambers. The board was meeting about 35ft away from the double doors.
Authority Manager Berry came into the lobby and announced, "Everyone must leave the buildin'."
Your reporter looked at Manager Berry and said, "I'm not sitting out in the street. Close the doors."
No one left.
Manager Berry dug in, refused to close the doors and instead yelled back into the chambers, "Dr. Khan, call the police and have them escort these people out of the buildin'."
Apparently, Chairman Khan didn't know the police phone number. Berry had it stored in his phone.
Manager Berry yelled back, "I'll call em'."
After a few moments Berry told someone on the other end of his cell phone, "We're goin' into executive session and they want to sit out here outside the door and listen to what we're sayin'."
The Authority building, besides the lobby, has a waiting room downstairs away from the chambers and two public meeting rooms on the second floor.
The Police Show Up: Berry, "They're over there."
About 15 minutes later the LCPD's Officer Troiano showed up after going to the Lake Shore Hospital instead of the Hospital Authority. Berry greeted him at the door. "They're over here," he said.
By this time Reporter Britt and Mr. Kitchens were having a conversation on the sidewalk.
Officer Troiano asked what was going on. Your reporter responded:
They are going into an executive session. They want to throw us out into the street. When a governmental agency goes into an executive session they don't throw people out and into the street. They put them in a room and let them wait, because they have to reconvene the meeting. We have a right not to be thrown in the street from a building that the public owns. We could sit in a room upstairs, so that they can come and get us when they reconvene into an open meeting to make whatever action it is they are going to make.
Officer Troiano responded, "I'm pretty sure they can take that up with the right people and build a room in the future for that... Step outside."
We were escorted outside to sit on the curb. Your reporter mentioned that this was the first time in 40 years that he had seen the public thrown into the street to wait for a meeting to be reconvened from an executive session.
Berry: "I don't care where she sits."
On the way out, Ms. Lemley went to take a chair from the lobby.
Ms. Lemley told the Observer, "I didn't want to sit on the ground."
Berry told her, "Put that down. You're not takin' that."
Your reporter asked, "She has to sit on the ground?"
Berry shot back, "I don't care where she sits."
Reporter Britt: what statute did you use?
Once everyone was outside, Reporter Britt asked the LCPD, "I want to know what statute you used to just throw them out of the building?"
LCPD Officer Troiano answered, "It's trespassing... If you want an air-conditioned room, you can request that."
Reporter Britt followed up, "They have a public waiting room in there, so why would you ask people to get out of the entire building?"
Officer Troiano answered, "Theoretically, it's a public building. They can close the building off if they want to."
The LCPD left without incident.
A little while later, officer Troiano returned with an explanation from the Sergeant on Duty, Sergeant Shaller. Officer Troiano put Shaller's remarks this way, "Since the Authority owns the building, they can kick out whoever they want."
Reporter Britt, Ms. Lemley and your reporter were being eaten alive by the mosquitoes.
Mr. Kitchens left earlier. He told your reporter, "I didn't want to waste my time being around those people anymore."
After about an hour, Chairman Khan came to unlock the door along with board member Janet Creel.
The meeting reconvened. The Authority Board voted. Only Board member Marc Vann dissented.
In an effort clearly designed to save the face of Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, one of North Central Florida's most notorious political operatives, the Board voted to appeal its losing Public Records Decision to the 1st. District Court of Appeals.