LSHA Public Record Issues Again. Public Paying to Buy Auth Manager Berry Clothes
Posted February 9, 2015 10:35 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Lake Shore Hospital Authority Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry supervises a staff of two people. Mr. Berry's total compensation package costs approximately $109,000 a year. The Lake Shore Hospital does not have a uniform requirement. Last month Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board paid $171 for embroidered shirts for Manager Berry. It is not clear if the Board knew what it was doing. Board member Janet Creel did. She signed the check.
The check number on the check register is unmistakable. ++ enlarge
In last month's Lake Shore Hosp Auth consent agenda was an account payable item with a simple memo: "SHIRTS – JACK." The complete consent agenda, which includes the check register is not available at the Hospital Authority meetings for inspection. That has been suggested and ignored.
Florida law requires that "meeting materials available in electronic form... shall [must] be published on the Hospital Authority website. Manager Berry and the Lake Shore Hosp Auth board do not do that.
The Lake Shore Hospital Authority check registers are available in electronic form and are provided to the Governor's appointees before the meetings. All Authority board members have either been appointed or reappointed by Gov. Scott. None has ever offered to share this information with the public or made any effort to make sure it was available. The check registers used to be available at the meetings.
On January 20, 2015, Barbara Lemley visited the Authority Hdq. She requested a copy of the invoice for the shirts. She misstated the check number to be 198 instead of 1928.
The invoice was paid with check number 1928.
Ms. Lemley was provided with a copy of the invoice, however she was not provided a copy of the check.
On or about January 22, Manager Berry emailed Ms. Lemley in relevant part [as written]: The second part of your request for a copy of check # 198, We have no record of a check with that number, All of LSHA checks have (4) four numbers.
$171 for Berry's shirts. Paid for with public funds. ++ enlarge
The law and AGO opinions are crystal clear. If a record is described in sufficient detail so that the custodian or its representative can provide it, it must be provided.
On January 29, Ms. Lemley resubmitted the request for the check, this time writing out the number "1928."
Jack Berry has been intimately involved with the Lake Shore Hosp Auth since 2004, as a board member; as board chairman; and as the Authority Manager.
On January 29, Manger Berry emailed Ms. Lemley and stated the following: "We do not maintain cancelled checks in this office."
City Manager Wendell Johnson at the Authority. Mr. Johnson is always dressed for business.
The next day, January 30 at 4:03 pm, your reporter filed a public record request with the Authority asking for the cancelled check.
At 6:39 am on Feb. 2, Manager Berry responded to Ms. Lemley [as written]: After more research I have found that we do maintain a copy of checks in this office, If you will come by after lunch today a copy will be at the front desk. There will be no charge.
At 7:48 am on Feb. 2, Manager Berry responded to the Observer's record request: I have received your request and will respond asap.
It is not clear why he didn't say the request would be available.
The stonewalled check required 2 signatures
Manager Berry at an Economic Dev. Board meeting a short way down the hall from his Auth office. (file photo)
The Authority's Procurement Policy requires two signatures on the check for the shirts. Only Board member, Janet Creel, signed the check.
The Authority did not pay sales tax on the shirts for Mr. Berry's personal use. There is no dress code requirement that an employee wear embroidered shirts with the Authority logo. There is a requirement to "present a clean, well-groomed and neat dress appearance according to the requirements of their positions."
Hospital Authority Manager and Republican operative, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, has been a fixture in North Central Florida for 40 years. He has compared his responsibilities to City Manager Wendell Johnson on numerous occasions. One is hard pressed to think of a time that City Manager Johnson is not wearing a tie.
Manager Berry should take notice. The Board should demand that the funds appropriated from the public be returned and Mr. Berry pay for his own clothes.