Confusion, Whispering, Limited Sunshine at Gov Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board
Posted January 12, 2017 02:30 pm | Part II | Part I
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – Monday night's January 9, 2017 meeting of Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA) Board was marked by confusion, whispering, limited sunshine and an Abbot and Costello moment during a land giveaway by an agency, that while charged with the medical care of Columbia County's indigent, has turned into an out of control backroom real-estate agency – again.
Part I: details the background of the LSHA – Lake City land deal and the run up to Board member Ron Foreman's motion to pay City real-estate taxes with LSHA public funds.
Part II: details the legislative mechanics of Governor Scott's Board and the action of Authority Attorney Fred Koberlein, who also is the City Attorney.
"Who's on First?"
Board Member Foreman Moves the Proposition
Ron Foreman (file)
Mr. Foreman addressed the Board: "What you are looking for is a motion from the Authority -- a willingness to convey the ownership of this property to the City. I'll so move."
Board member Chancy: "Second."
Chairman Beil: "I have a motion and a second."
Citizen Barbara Lemley, from the audience, "I have the right to speak. Senate Bill 50."
Manager Berry leaned over to Mr. Beil and whispered, "She's out of order."
According to Florida Law, she wasn't.
Acting Chair Jason Beil maintained his cool during the Board confusion and having his ears filled with whispers from both sides.
Mr. Beil ignored Mr. Berry, "We have a motion and a second."
Ms. Lemley reminded Chairman Beil from the audience, "Once you're taking action, I have the opportunity to speak."
Authority contract attorney Fred Koberlein leaned across Richard Powell, the Board account – external auditor – financial advisor (all one person), and began whispering something to Mr. Beil.
Whispering has been frowned upon by the Attorney General and appeared to be a violation of at least the spirit Florida's Sunshine Law. It is not clear what Mr. Foreman, who was sitting close by, or any of the other Board members heard.
After the whispering stopped, Mr. Beil said [as spoken], "So conferring with Mr. Koberlein -- really Mr. Johnson is looking for a majority consensus that something so normally need to vote tonight so I would suggest .. (Mr. Foreman interrupts)
Mr. Foreman: "Well, I have no objection if all we are asking for is if that's what he's asking for is that we're willing to look at it. The possibility to convey. No problem."
Your reporter asked, "Didn't you just make a motion?"
Mr. Foreman wouldn't admit to making the motion, "You'll have to listen," he said.
Board member Foreman did not withdraw his motion.
The Board spent a few moments talking over each other. None of them were recognized by the Chair. Most of what they said was incomprehensible in the audience, a violation of the Sunshine Law.
Mr. Foreman said, "Listen to the attorney. What is the attorney's advice?"
Mr. Koberlein's whispering made it impossible to know his advice – what he actually said. Understanding Mr. Koberlein has been a continuing issue at the Authority and in the City.
Mr. Koberlein spoke, "I would just suggest that you do a majority consensus."
Mr. Beil asked, "So on behalf of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority I could give Mr. Johnson majority consensus?"
Mr. Koberlein said, "Just ask them for it."
Columbia County Abbot and Costello Government:
• The Embarrassment Continues at the County 5: A Board That Doesn't Need Rules
Mr. Beil didn't ask for consensus. Mr. Foreman did not withdraw his motion and Ms. Chancy did not withdraw her second.
Then, on their own, one at a time the Governor's Board said, "Yes."
Mr. Johnson announced that if the City agrees he will be back at the next Authority Board meeting.
FL Bar Rules of Professional Conduct
Attorney Fred Koberlein
The Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct require that attorneys must make their clients aware of conflicts of interest.
One conflict of interest would be representing two clients on the same matter.
When Lake City recently hired Mr. Koberlein to replace legendary City Attorney, Herbert Darby, the Observer brought up the conflict of interest issue.
Mr. Koberlein's contracts with the City and with the Authority have conflict of interest clauses. Mr. Koberlein decides if he has a conflict.
The Rules of Professional Conduct are clear regarding conflict of interest with current clients. The Rules state in part that each affected client needs to give informed consent that it is not opposed to the arrangement and that the informed consent confirms in writing or clearly states "on the record at a hearing" that the attorney is representing both sides.
Mr. Koberlein has not announced at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority that he is representing the City. When your reporter informed the City Council that Mr. Koberlein represented the LSHA, which is down the block from City Hall, the Council members seemed unaware that he was the Authority's attorney.
On a good day, being able to hear Attorney Fred Koberlein can be problematic.
While Attorney Koberlein is not subject to the Sunshine Law, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board is and Attorney Koberlein would do well to keep in mind that while he may not have violated the letter of the law by whispering to Chairman Beil and at other times being inaudible when he speaks, he "...might well be advised to avoid even the appearance of impropriety by expending all efforts to conform to the spirit as well as the letter of the Sunshine Law." (Attorney General Opinion)