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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Auth:  Manager Jack Berry & 2 Gal Staff Make Last Minute Score in Budget Season

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Hurricane Irma did not dampen the enthusiasm of Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board at its last budget hearing Monday night when the legendary Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, Manager of the 2 person staff Lake Shore Hospital Authority, scored big in the raise department. His two person staff also did just fine.

More LSHA stories are here.

The die was cast for the raises at the Irma delayed rescheduled September 18 first budget hearing, which was announced with two different starting times: one in a mainstream media (Lake City Reporter) published notice and the other on the Authority website meeting calendar.

Manager Berry rescheduled the budget hearing, which since 2006 has been at 5:15 pm, for 5:45 pm, after the illegally rescheduled Authority regular meeting, so that Hospital Authority Attorney Fred Koberlein could attend the Lake City budget hearing at 6 pm. This left the Authority without its attorney during its first budget hearing which violated Mr. Koberlein's contract with the Hospital Authority. No one on the Governor's Board took exception.

First Hospital Authority Budget Hearing


By all standards, the Authority staff was well paid in 2016-17.

The September 18 budget hearing kicked off with the Authority's long time accountant-inside/outside auditor-financial advisor (all one person) Richard Powell announcing the budget "has not changed from the workshop. You had a copy of it," he told the Governor's Board.

The Lake Shore Hospital Authority did not have a public budget workshop this year and there is nothing in the minutes of the Authority that shows the budget was circulated at any public meeting. The Authority did follow the law and had it on its website two days before the first hearing.

Mr. Powell explained that the indigent care costs for the Authority were reduced "because of different requirements for eligibility."

While Manager Berry, the former Republican leader, openly deprecated Obamacare during Authority meetings, it was clear that many of those on the Authority's indigent care role qualified for Obamacare and dropped off.


The Proposed Budget had the wrong hourly rate as introduced at the final hearing.

Manager Berry Talks About Pay Increases
The County: "they don't know what they're doin'"

Manager Berry explained [as spoken]:

There was no pay increase last year.  The insurance that we added in people's pay back in 2014, I believe it was,  the difference between what they were payin' then and what they are payin' now comes to over $2,000. Last year it was like a 20% increase in insurance premiums. This year it's goin' to be 28%., accordin' to what the County's payin'. So it's about a 2100 difference between  those items.... The City is proposing a 3% increase. The County -- to be honest with ya, they don't know what they're doin'."

Board member Waseem Khan asked if the City had "an increase last year."

Mr. Berry replied, "Yes, three percent..."

In fact, the City only gave 1/3 of its employees a 3% raise; the other 2/3 received either a 2% or 1% bonus.

Board member Lory Chancy gave her take of the raise situation:

The state is giving 3.5% plus. We need to address the fact that our employees have not received a true pay raise in quite a while... Their checks are less because their insurance is going up... I propose that our employees get a 5% pay raise.... Our executive director (Manager Berry) is under paid. I base this on what I have done in research for executive directors of hospital authorities... The hospital authority that comes closest to ours is Indian River Hospital District. Their executive director gets $110,800 per year, plus 6k for insurance and 4% of that salary is put into retirement at no expense to the executive director. 

Indian River, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 138k people and is Florida's 7th richest county with a median family income of $46,385, with about 6.30% of families and 9.30% of the population below the poverty line.

Columbia County is a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern, has a population of 67,531 (2010) and a median family income of $35,927, with about 11.40% of families and 15.00% of the population below the poverty line. (stats. via Wikipedia)

The per capita income for Indian River County was $27,353; almost double that of Columbia County's $14,598.


Board member Lory Chancy listens to Richard Powell.

Ms. Chancy didn't get the legislature's pay raise bill correct. The bill gave varying levels of pay raises to state employees, most of whom hadn't received a pay raise in a decade.

"Rank-and-file employees who currently earn $40,000 a year or less will get a $1,400 pay raise, and those earning more than $40,000 will receive a $1,000 raise...," Associated Press.

Barbara Lemley asked questions about line items in the budget for which neither the Governor's Board, nor Mr. Powell, nor Manager Berry had any answers.


Manager Berry has stopped turning his back on those addressing the Board.

When Ms. Lemley suggested that Mr. Berry could email her answers, Manager Berry said, "No I won't. I'm not going to answer any more of your questions."

Ms Chancy made a motion for a 5% raise for the two office employees and a motion to bring Mr. Berry "up to standard, which would be based on Indian River: $10,000 increase plus $6k a year for insurance."

Board member Khan knocked the Berry raise down to 5% and left the $6k for insurance, which the board approved.

Final Budget Hearing: September 25

Richard Powell again began by announcing, "The budget has not changed from the workshop. You had a copy of it."


Sandra Buck-Camp addresses the board.

Earlier today via email the Observer asked Manager Berry if there was a budget workshop. He has not replied.

Ms. Lemley followed up on her question during the 1st budget hearing regarding the cost of indigent burial asking if anyone had checked to see how much the Authority spent. No one had.

Ms. Lemley also asked Board member Chancy to follow up on her remarks at the last hearing regarding "county hospitals that went under." Ms. Chancy sat silent.

Retired pharmacist Sandra Buck Camp questioned the $6,000 given to Mr. Berry for health insurance. She told the Board that she paid $3,328 in Medicare supplements and thought the $6k being given to Mr. Berry was excessive.

Ms. Buck-Camp concluded, first commenting that Mr. Berry can use the VA for free, "... Medicare does not mandate that he [Mr. Berry] purchase the supplements. Use the money for indigent care, rather than for Jack Berry."

Your reporter, also a resident, questioned the fees for legal service. The September 18 tentative budget had legal fees at $35,000 and the proposed Monday night budget had legal fees reduced $10,000 at $25,000.

The legend explaining the legal fee budget line said legal fees were budgeted at last year's usage level. It said the same thing for both budgets.

Your reporter noted that both numbers could not be last year's level of expenditures.


Richard Powell: long time account-inside/outside auditor-financial advisor.

A short while later Mr. Powell addressed the legal fee issue. He said, "The legal fees are very reasonable with the amount that's in there. Something like legal is based on activity and if it's increased there's almost always a budget amendment every year. So to keep the total admin budget, operating fund budget the same a few line items were adjusted."

Your reporter followed up, "So that really doesn't reflect the true expense like it says?"

Mr. Powell answered, "It probably does. I think it does."

And so it went. The budget, along with the raises for the three employees, passed unanimously without a discouraging word from any of Governor Scott's appointees.

Epilogue

A few weeks ago, long time Columbia County resident and respected businessman, Dr. Ron Foreman resigned from the Authority Board.

His resignation was not announced at the budget meetings; resignations never are. However, Manager Berry did take Mr. Foreman's photo off the wall.

At the last County meeting your reporter bumped into Mr. Foreman.

Your reporter said, "I see you resigned from the Hospital Authority."

Mr. Foreman said, "Yes."

Your reporter asked, "I guess you didn't have the stomach for it anymore?"

Mr. Foreman thought a moment, then replied, "That would be a good way to put it."

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LSHA 8 (clockwise from top):
Koby Adams - political operative and Liz Porter's Chief of staff
Brandon Biel - latest Scott appointee and a young republican on the move
Dr. Waseem Khan - a board member who
lives out of the county
Janet Creel - real estate broker
Ron Foreman - father of the County Atny, recently resigned from the board.
Tim Murphy - a nice guy, talented welder, clueless about government, elected to County Commission, no longer on board
Lory Chancy - her main job appears to be not to answer questions and to protect Columbia County's legendary political operative, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry (in the middle).