Lake Shore Hosp Auth Berry Digs In: Refuses to Answer Questions, Makes Record Inspection a Trial
Posted January 12, 2015 02:12 pm
Manager Jack Berry
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – With the resignation in June 2013 of Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board member, Bruce Naylor, the Gov. Scott appointed Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board has given its $109,000 a year Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, a virtual free pass to do anything he wants, which includes not answering questions from the public. Mr. Berry has made it clear that he will not answer any question unless it is through a public record request. If the answer can't be found in a public record, he won't answer. If a public record is available electronically, he will charge for copies, rather than emailing it.
The Authority Is Getting Worse
Last week, Columbia County resident, Barbara Lemley, came across the agenda for tonight's meeting and saw an item called: Trust Agreement with League of Cities.
She emailed Authority Manager Berry and asked that he email her the information regarding the Agreement.
Manager Berry responded a few hours later and emailed Ms. Lemley [as written]: The trust agreement is not on computer, The cost is 10 pages @ $0.15 per page, Total $1.50. You need to pay the fee and then we will make copies for you.
A short while later Ms. Lemley emailed Mr. Berry for an explanation: What is the Trust Agreement with the League of Cities?
Twenty minutes later Mr. Berry gave his answer: That is what you requested [.]
The Next Day: Did Berry stonewall the copy?
Lake Shore Hosp Auth Manager & Gov. Scott's Board Clamp Down: Built In Fees Imposed To View Agenda Materials
Mr. Kitchens told the Observer, "It is apparent that the publicly funded Lake Shore Hospital Authority has no intention of granting easy access to Authority meeting materials to anyone other than its Board members...
The next day, January 7, your reporter was in town and stopped by the handicapped inaccessible Authority information window.
Manager Berry came to the window. "What do you want?" he asked.
Your reporter responded, "The FMIT [Florida Municipal Insurance Trust] thing. The League of Cities, what is that?"
Mr. Berry answered, "It’s a trust agreement with em’.
Your reporter asked if he could see it for a second and Mr. Berry replied, "If you want a copy of it."
When your reporter said he didn't want a copy, but wanted to see it, Mr. Berry responded, "I don’t have it where I can give it to you right this minute. If you have a seat in the waitin’ room I’ll get to you as soon as I can."
Your reporter asked Mr. Berry how long he thought he would be.
Mr. Berry said he didn't know, "When I get finished with what I’m doin’."
Your reporter had other appointments in Lake City and told Mr. Berry he would come back and asked, "Can you tell me how long? Is it going to be 10 minutes?"
Mr. Berry said he didn't know.
Your reporter asked, "Today - tomorrow - I’m going to sit there for three days?"
Manager Berry turned his back and walked away. He came back 31 minutes later and called your reporter from the waiting room to the window, which has a small ledge, not wide enough to hold a standard clip board. He handed the copies through the window slot.
Your reporter went to sit down in the waiting room to review the copies.
Through the window Mr. Berry said, "You can stay here and look at it. You stay in my sight and look at it."
The waiting room has camera surveillance and your reporter asked, "You can’t see me on the camera?"
Manager Berry said, "No. I want to look at you while you’re lookin’ at it."
The papers did not fit on the window ledge.
Your reporter asked if the papers were a copy.
Mr. Berry said, "That’s the original."
Your reporter said, "They usually email these, don’t they?"
Mr. Berry responded, "No."
Your reporter told Mr. Berry they did in the past.
Mr. Berry claimed, "They didn’t email it."
The Payment Was Past Due
The document turned out to be the insurance policy for the Authority Hdq. It appeared Mr. Berry didn't know what it was.
The document said the payment was due on 12-29-2014.
Your reporter asked, "So this is past due? Is that right?"
Manager Berry responded, "I’m not answerin' any questions."
Your reporter said, "It looks like a copy to me. Are you sure you’re telling the truth?"
After a few minutes your reporter handed the papers back through the slot to Mr. Berry and asked again, "Are you sure that’s not a copy, Jack?"
Manager Berry was silent and walked away.
Was Berry Telling the Truth?
Florida Municipal Insurance Trust
The Florida Municipal Insurance Trust (FMIT) is run through the Florida League of Cities.
It is the practice and procedure of the FMIT to do everything electronically through the internet.
A former employee of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority told the Observer that the documents received from the FMIT by the Authority came via email. "If something needed a signature, it was printed out – signed – scanned – and emailed back.
Trouble with public records is nothing new at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority. Years ago, your reporter spoke with the then State Attorney, Skip Jarvis, and explained that Mr. Berry was charging for records before allowing inspection. Shortly after that conversation the practice stopped. It appears to have resurfaced.