Hosp Auth Board Ignores Charter – Ron Foreman:
Giving Away Defibrillators "Great for exposure"
Manager Berry takes notes at Monday's meeting.
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Lake Shore Hospital Authority's charter calls for it to furnish temporary relief to the indigent of Columbia County and collect millage (taxes) for the purpose of maintenance and operation of the hospital facilities and provide health care to the indigent residents of Columbia County. The Authority floats on a sea of millions of dollars of public money and is run by Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, a Republican operative. The Board has been appointed by Governor Scott.
On Monday, January 11, 2016, the Board needed to decide whether purchasing and donating defibrillators to the Columbia County School District and the County fell within the realm of its charter.
The Gov's. Authority Board Tackles the AED Issue
On January 11, the Authority agenda, under new business, stated the following: "Purchase of 12 AED (Automated External Defibrillators) for use in 11 schools and 1 at County Recreation Department. Cost $8,093.88."
Manager Berry told the Board (as spoken), "I became aware in the CHAPs [Community Health Advisory Panel] meeting last month that there’s eleven elementary schools that does not have these defibrillators in em’. The high schools do and the middle schools does, but the eleven elementary schools does not. The County Health Department -- the County recreation department doesn’t have one, either."
Mr. Berry continued, "During the course of the meeting, I asked Kim [Kim Allison, the Columbia County School District Health Coordinator] what the cost would be if subsequently we went and got the cost. And the cost come out to be about $8000. Last year’s budget in the public education budget we saved $7998.92 and I thought that this would be a perfect program to go along with that and I got with the CPA, Richard Powell, and he said, 'Yes, we can use those funds for this.' And I got Kim here tonight if you all have any questions. I think it would be a perfect program for community participation."
Board member Tim Murphy was concerned about using the money out of the "Education" line item.
"Jack, when you spoke with Richard, you sayin' that he said we could use this money out of that line item?"
Manager Berry paused, "Yes."
Manager Berry had nothing in writing from Richard Powell and later told the Board that Mr. Powell showed up at Authority meetings, "When he felt like it."
Mr. Murphy continued, "And it's in the boundaries of the indigent?"
Mr. Berry, "Yes."
Your reporter pointed out that Mr. Powell was not the Authority's attorney.
Atny Fred Koberlein was MIA. Atnny Megan Standard sat in for him.
The Authority Attorney is Fred Koberlein, who violated his contract and sent a stand-in to the meeting. The Governor's Board didn't object and the attorney said Mr. Koberlein was at another meeting.
Health Coordinator Allison told the Board, "We have a high number of indigent children in this County. That's why they all get free lunches in elementary school."
Mr. Murphy asked, "History - Why hasn't the school funded this?"
Ms. Allison answered, "Because it needed money."
Mr. Murphy continued, "Defibrillators is naturally not a mandatory that's required of the schools?"
School District Health Coordinator, Kim Allison.
Ms. Allison answered, "Not for elementary schools."
There was a long pause, and then Chairwoman Chancy entered the conversation.
Ms. Chancy asked, "The children in our schools go out for recess and they run and play -- right?"
Board member Janet Creel added, "We take from the tax payers to protect their children."
Ms. Allison joined in, "All of us pay taxes as well."
"It Looks Good for the Authority"
The Governor's most recent appointee to the LSHA Board, Brandon Biel, opined, "It's a good community outreach -- It looks good for the Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board to contribute."
Ms. Chancy added, "We do have that in our budget."
Ms. Creel asked, "We're not doing anything illegal, is that correct?"
Manager Berry responded, "No."
Your reporter gestured to Attorney Koberlein's stand-in, Megan Standard. "Nobody checked with the attorney. There's the attorney."
Ms. Standard was silent. No one inquired.
Board member Ron Foreman ended the conversation making two motions, "I make the motion of the purposes of discussion. I make a motion for the expenditure."
Then Mr. Foreman said, "Am I correct that this has been reviewed by our certified public accountant and it is within our guidelines; within our budget; within our mission statement?"
Mr. Berry responded, "And our attorney."
There was nothing anywhere from Attorney Koberlein.
"Great for exposure."
Mr. Foreman said, "Then I agree with Brandon. This is great for the Authority to have this kind of exposure."
The motion then passed unanimously
Shortly after the conclusion of the Authority meeting, your reporter bumped into Mike Null, the longtime purchasing agent for the school district. Mr. Null has the reputation of being a straight shooter.
Your reporter asked, "What’s the deal with the defibs in the public school system? The Authority just donated the money to buy them."
Mr. Null replied, "Those are additional. I guess they’re adding to the inventory."
Your reporter asked, "There are so many grants available. Why didn’t the school district every try to get them? Or did they?"
Mr. Null answered, "I don’t know. I don't know how that came about."
Your reporter followed up, "There’s so much money available I just can’t figure out why ..."
Mr. Null interjected, "I’ve never heard a need. I’ve never heard anybody say, 'We need these for every school.'"
In the two days before this article was published, your reporter has not been able to find anyone that can remember the District's Health Coordinator Allison asking the School Board, or anyone, to add defibrillators in the schools that didn't have them.
Yesterday, your reporter asked Richard Community Center/County Recreation Director, Mario Coppock why he didn't ask the County to provide AEDs at Richardson.
For the record, Mr. Coppock would only say, "I looked at it. The cost was prohibitive."
Both Lake City's Fire Chief, Frank Armijo, and Columbia County's Fire Chief, David Boozer, said no one ever approached them about providing AED's to the school district.
Both Chiefs knew that grants were available and according to the County's former Safety Manager, David Kraus, AEDs have been obtained though grants by the County in the past.
Chief Boozer added, "If I knew there was a need I would have gotten together with who ever could have gotten the job done. It would have gotten done."
Former Lifeguard Ambulance director Jason Kimbrill told the Observer that the AEDs need to be registered with 911.
The County's 911 Director, Thomas Brazil, is an expert in AED tracking. He told the Observer that no one has registered any AEDs with 911 dispatch.
Mr. Brazil said, "It's important that we know where they are. Without this knowledge, it is impossible for our dispatchers to help callers locate them."
Violating the tenets of its charter and the law are nothing new for the Lake Shore Hospital Authority and its Manager, the legendary Jack Berry.
During the interviews for this article it was said that "Jack Berry radiates that he can give out money."
Many believe it's time to shut down the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, which has leased its public hospital to the largest for profit hospital corporation in America, the almost $19 billion Community Health Systems (CHS).