LSHA Final Budget Hearing Tonight Berry Digs In, Delays Public Records - Again
Posted September 26, 2016 08:45 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – After a couple of tries and a meeting where the Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA) Attorney trampled the rights of the public to comment on the budget, Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board holds its final budget hearing, tonight.
Bollixed Budget Notices: un-doo's and re-doo's
Other than sitting as a member of the the LSHA Board, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, Manager of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, has no practical government experience. Before becoming the Authority Manager, a job created for him, he was known as a "Repo Man."
More about Mr. Berry's hiring, and his resume, can be found here: Good ole boy and former Republican Chief gets Hospital Authority Nod
Under Manager Berry's management, the yearly budget posting requirements have become problematic.
Three years ago in 2013, Authority Manager Berry was having difficulties advertising the budget notices. The law requires notice of a tax increase be a minimum of 1/4 of a page in a daily print newspaper. In Columbia County, that newspaper is the Lake City Reporter, Columbia County's only print daily.
The practice and policy of the government agencies is generally to publish their budgets large enough for them to be comfortably read. For the Governor's LSHA Board, readability may or may not be a requirement.
The 2013 budget advertisements were out of compliance. Neither the tax increase advertisement nor the budget was a quarter of a page.
In November 2013, the Department of Revenue made Manager Berry and the Authority re-advertise and hold another budget hearing, making them also correct the bad math in the earlier advertisement.
In 2014, both the Authority and the LC Reporter got it right the first time, demonstrating that they knew the correct advertisement sizes. Whoever prepared the 2014 ad checked the math.
In 2015, nobody was watching the store. The Authority got away with running less than a quarter page for the budget, making it barely readable.
In the same edition of the paper, the Suwannee River Water Management advertised its budget and hearing. That was done correctly.
2016: Here they go again.
As reported earlier, Another Year Where the Auth Can't Get It Right: Tonight's Budget Hearing Canceled, Manager Berry refused to post the Authority budget hearing on its website calendar.
Mr. Berry finally posted the hearing scheduled this evening. Mr. Berry's change of heart may have had something to do with another screw-up and the intervention, again, of the Department of Revenue.
On Saturday, September 17, in a barely noticeable miniscule notice, the LC Reporter published as a news item, Manager Berry's cancellation of the budget hearing scheduled for Monday night, September 19. Other than the miniscule news item published by his friends at the LC Reporter, Mr. Berry did nothing else to alert the public that the meeting was canceled.
On September 20, at 10:25 am, Letecia Blick of the Department of Revenue contacted Mr. Berry via email. Mr. Berry has so far refused to turn over that email to the Observer.
Ms. Blick wrote: "I am with the Department of Revenue, Property Tax Oversight Program, and need to speak with you regarding the TRIM hearing for the Lake Shore Hospital Authority. Please email me with a direct phone number and a time that I can call you regarding this issue."
Almost 30 minutes later, Mr. Berry responded [as written]: "I will be here until 11:45,and return @ 1:30."
Mr. Berry has long lunches, and neither he, nor the Gov's. Board will reveal when he works.
At 11:44 am, one minute before lunch time, Mr. Berry responded to Ms. Blick.
Mr. Berry sent the DOR some attachments. All, save for one are undated. There are no explanations on the documents
Mr. Berry wrote the following:
Richard Powell is not the "State" Auditor. Mr. Powell, for decades, has been the Authority outside auditor - Authority accountant - Authority financial advisor.
Lake Shore Hospital Manager Berry
He does not respond to questions
On September 20, at 4:55 pm, your reporter asked Mr. Berry via email, why he canceled the budget hearing and why it took him so long to update the Authority calendar to reflect the changes.
He did not reply. The LC Reporter knew the answer. It is nowhere in the newspaper.
Your reporter continued, "Additionally, pursuant to the Public Record Law of Florida, please forward all emails received or sent by you concerning the cancelation and rescheduling of the final LSHA budget hearing beginning on September 12, 2016 and ending today, September 20, 2016."
As usual, Mr. Berry is ignoring and stonewalling the request. The Observer has heard nothing from Mr. Berry, even though it would have been a snap to forward the email he sent to the Dept. of Revenue and any other emails he received or sent regarding this issue.
On September 21, 2016, the corrected LSHA Budget Notice finally made it into Columbia County's own version of Pravda, the Lake City Reporter.
The Governor's Lake Shore Hospital Authority: floating on a sea of taxpayer dollars, continually inept and incompetent, it is time for it to go away.