Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.


Jack Berry blows under pressure
Throws Observer out of illegal meeting

LSHA Chairman Jack Berry in a pensive moment during a previous Authority meeting. (file photo)

Lake Shore Hospital Authority (“LSHA”) Chairman, Jack Berry, a man who claims that he gets his “orders from the Governor,” hit a new low in a career of disregarding the rights of others, when he called the Lake City Police Department to come to the Hospital Authority to remove the Observer for listening to a meeting.

Twenty six minutes after it was clear through the questioning of the Observer that neither Mr. Berry, nor long time LSHA Attorney, Marlin Feagle, had any intention of adhering to the meeting notice requirements of Florida’s Sunshine Laws the Observer was asked to leave the meeting.

Mr. Berry, a legend in this area, decades ago established his reputation as a bully and a thug when he was forced to resign or was fired from the Sheriff’s Department for beating somebody up. Mr. Berry told the Observer that it was “self defense.”

In 2004, Berry went after two little old ladies.

In 2004, Mr. Berry, the chairman of the local Republican Party, went after two little old ladies who wanted to campaign for President George Bush. Their crime – they refused to support his candidate for Sheriff in the county’s non partisan Sheriff election. The LCPD was also called in on this incident.

Berry claims amnesia.

Last year in his capacity as LSHA chairman, Mr. Berry made publically racist remarks at a LSHA meeting, while refusing to answer the Observer’s questions. Mr. Berry subsequently compounded the insult by claiming some sort of “amnesia” and then, while campaigning with Sheriff Hunter, telling a member of the NAACP that he should “stay away” from your reporter.

In a mystery yet to be explained and nothing new in Columbia County, where governmental tape recordings are routinely tampered with or just plain disappear, an examination of the tape of that meeting showed that Mr. Berry’s racist remarks had been obliterated from the LSHA tape, a fact that was not unknown by LSHA and County Attorney, Marlin Feagle.

Berry's protégé carries Berry's banner

Last year, after the election to the County Commission of his protégé, Jody DuPree, Mr. Berry, who takes pride in stonewalling and throwing his massive weight around, was bragging to a bunch of folks after a County Commission meeting that at the Hospital Authority he doesn’t answer questions. Unfortunately, like an ill wind, Mr. DuPree has brought his mentor’s philosophy to the County Commission and it has spread like the plague, but of course that is another story.

This brings us up to yesterday’s August 17th meeting of the LSHA.

Your reporter, who has had back problems since the 60’s, when he walked off the wing of a B-52, was suffering some discomfort and got up, got a drink of water and was standing quietly, almost outside the LSHA meeting room with his camera at his waist looking at some recent photos that he had taken of the exterior and interior of the new Authority headquarters.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Berry refused to release the final estimated cost of this public building.

Then, out of the clear blue, the renegade Mr. Berry told the Observer to put down his camera. He didn’t say the Observer was taking photos, which he clearly wasn’t and certainly in America has a right to do. Mr. Berry didn’t say the Observer was talking and disturbing the meeting, which clearly he wasn’t.

Out of the blue: “put your camera down or leave – one or the other.”

In an embarrassment to himself, the Authority, and the Governor that appointed him, this relic, a bully who seems to have been imported from behind the iron curtain, just looked up out of the blue and told your reporter to “put your camera down or leave – one or the other.”

The Lake City Police Department arrived and without any investigation and on clearly hearsay evidence given over the phone to some yet unknown person, asked your reporter to leave, which after a the short conversation, he did.

Sometime ago, years ago in fact, when the Observer began following the LSHA before anyone else, the board had a discussion regarding the Lake City Master Plan, which was completed in 1976.

LSHA member Bruce Naylor asked Mr. Berry, also a board member at that time, if things haven’t changed since 1976. Mr. Berry remarked that they really hadn’t.

It appears that what Mr. Berry really meant was that things hadn’t changed for him since 1856. 

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