Floating on a Sea of Cash, LSHA's Berry Digs In: Refuses to Post Budget for Tonight's Hearing
Posted September 14, 2015 12:20 pm
Manager Berry: he doesn't want the public to be informed and neither does Governor Scott's handpicked board.
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority is out of compliance again. While the recent trashing of the State's Public Records Law has generally not altered Authority Manager Berry's handling of public record requests, he has most recently failed to follow the Florida Statutes to post the Authority's budget and contrary to the law, refuses to publish the Authority meeting agendas to the Authority's website before its meetings.
According to Florida's Special District Handbook "all special districts" must comply with the following budget requirements:
• Must adopt a budget by resolution
each fiscal year
• The total amount available from taxation and other sources, including balances brought forward from prior fiscal years, must equal the total of appropriations for expenditures and reserves
• At a minimum, the adopted budget must show for each fund, as required by law and sound financial practices, budgeted revenues and expenditures by organizational unit that are at least at the level of detail required for the Annual Financial Report
• The adopted budget must regulate expenditures of the special district
• An officer of a special district may not expend or contract for expenditures in any fiscal year except pursuant to the adopted budget
The tentative budget must be posted on the special district's official website at least two days before the budget hearing to consider such budget. The final adopted budget must be posted on the special district's official website within 30 days after adoption.
The Lake Shore Hospital Authority has not posted this year's or last year's budgets on the Authority website.
Nobody (the DCA) or the Law, Tells the LSHA What To Do
The Florida statute is clear and specific:
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.
In the Beginning
In 2007, when the Authority began the discussions about using the internet to inform folks about the Authority, posting the agenda was discussed and once the website was up and rolling the meeting agendas were posted before the meetings.
Recently, Authority Manager Berry stopped posting the meeting agendas and draft minutes until days after the meetings. This decision was not announced at any public meeting. However, back room discussions are nothing new at the Authority or in Columbia County.
The Authority Board is required to be composed of residents of Columbia County. It is not clear if the Governor's Board cares about this. One member of the Board may not reside in the County.
Authority Attorney Fred Koberlein
Seven months ago, shortly after taking over the legal responsibilities of the Authority from long time Authority Attorney, Marlin Feagle, Manager Berry inquired of the new Authority Attorney, Fred Koberlein, if he was required to post the Authority agendas before the meetings.
In February, Attorney Koberlein emailed Mr. Berry and said he wasn't and Mr. Berry doesn't.
In the email Attorney Koberlein commented to Mr. Berry, "... there has been much speculation that the legislature will eventually pass specific laws requiring all public bodies to post materials in advance, due in large part to the normalcy of websites and technology. I mention this so that you might consider having your IT professional look into making the technology available to your staff in the future."
It appears that Attorney Koberlein needs to revisit his research.
Additionally, when Mr. Koberlein came on board with the Authority, the "technology" was available, and had been for at least the past two decades, with the Authority availing itself of the available technology since 2008.
The infamous Columbia County: Governor Scott's Board doesn't disappoint: The Legend Continues.