Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hospital Authority

Lakeshore Hosp Authority gives Berry the nod 6 to 1, ignores unprofessionalism

Gov Jeb Bush appointment and the then LSHA Chairman, Jack Berry, at the official opening of the LSHA admin building.

Columbia County's good ol' boys didn't miss a beat last night at the Lakeshore Hospital Authority's monthly meeting. In a county where good government has always taken a backseat to political expediency, cronyism and bullying, the Authority did not disappoint when it went off its agenda at the urging of Board Chairman Koby Adams.

The Board, without any warning to the public, appointed Columbia County's bad boy and former Republican chieftain, Jack Berry, to a full-time position for which he has continually demonstrated he is uniquely unqualified.

stories are here.

Mr. Berry's recent obliteration of the public records laws, with the help of Authority Attorney, Marlin Feagle and State Attorney Skip Jarvis, and his rude and obnoxious behavior towards citizen Barbara Jeffords Lemley, and others, proved to be nothing more than feathers in his cap to six of the seven Governor's appointees who sit on the Authority Board.

Adams views criticism of performance as personality attack

At the beginning of the meeting, Barbara Jeffords Lemley pointed out the run-around she received from both Mr. Berry and Mr. Feagle regarding a public records request for Mr. Berry's evaluations. She also questioned Mr. Berry's handling of petty cash.

Ms. Jeffords Lemley said she did not like Berry's treatment and that he threatened her in front of Hospital Authority clients.

Mr. Berry explained the incident this way: "What happened Mr. Chairman is that she demanded that I sign (the original invoice) in front of her and I told her that wasn't going to happen. She started getting boisterous outside - I invited her to leave - and she act like she didn't want to and I told her I would be happy to call the police."

Ms. Jeffords Lemley, speaking in a conversational tone, told the Board, "I was no louder than I am right now."

Link: The e mails can be seen here.

Your reporter, who is also a property owner and resident, addressed the Board referring to recent e-mails sent by Mr. Berry to City Manager Wendell Johnson. These e mails referred to the dangerously premature removal of a local four-way stop sign and demonstrated that part-time Authority Manager Berry has limited computer skills, limited grammar skills, and limited and challenged interpersonal relationship skills.

Mr. Berry's final e-mail to City Manager Johnson stated the following:

"Thank You for finely removing the stop signs of Franklin st. IT ONLY TOOK 160DAYS; I AM EMPRESSED.

The errors are not typos. This is exactly what Mr. Berry sent to City Manager Johnson.

Board member Audré Washington was so incensed by Mr. Berry's rudeness to the City Manager, she wrote an e mail to Mr. Berry, which said in relevant part:

I can’t believe you sent this email. Do you realize that I work for this organization and Mr. Wendell Johnson is my boss? Do you realize that everything you say and do publicly reflects the sentiments of the board? This message is unprofessional, unethical, inarticulate, and without dignity or respect for Mr. Johnson or the City of Lake City.

As the Authority Manager you MUST maintain a high level of professionalism at all times... I feel you/ we owe the city an apology.

Reflecting the malaise that has hovered over Columbia County since before the Civil War, none of the board members took exception to part time Authority Manager Berry's antics, clear lack of rudimentary computer skills or challenged command of the English-language, all which were clearly demonstrated in the course of his employment.

Chairman Adams, after being confronted by this evidence, told the assembly that personal attacks would not be tolerated.

Mr. Naylor: "I'm tired of this nit picking stuff. What's legal and what's not."

Board member and Columbia County Bank president, Bruce Naylor, brushed off the criticism of Mr. Berry.

He told the Board in relevant part: "Obviously some people have an ax to grind. My recommendation is that we have a workshop. Jack [Berry] tells us in the next 12 months where he is going and we make a decision then. Part-time employees provide part-time performance. It's up to Jack to convince us that it's full-time, not part-time. I'm not going to ask him to punch a clock or fill out some timesheet. There's some people in this audience have an ax to grind, obviously. We have some board members, who have an ax to grind. I'm tired of this nit picking stuff. What's legal and what's not. My recommendation is you have a workshop on the 28th."

Board Chairman Koby Adams is Florida Representative Elizabeth Porter's chief legislative aide. His working time is now spent in Tallahassee and he explained that he was unable to attend the workshop scheduled for March 28. He said, "I would like to get it settled tonight. I know for a fact and seen him work. He puts in the hours that he says he puts in.... I understand this nit picking going on. I understand there is personality conflicts."

Board member Vann benefited from the renovation

Former Board Chairman and perennial Columbia County good ol' boy Mark Vann personally benefited from the renovation of the Hospital Authority Building while sitting on the board.

He weighed in, "For me the absolute best thing in the world would be to find a way for HMA to buy the hospital and us quit having to pay 1.5 mils in indigent money to em'. I'm absolutely in favor of a full-time position at this point."

As expected, all Board members except Audré Washington gave Mr. Berry glowing reviews. Various members complained that the Authority had no goals and no understandable strategic plan, but that didn't make a difference.

Audré Washington

Ms. Washington was the only Board member who stemmed the tide.

She asked, "How are you documenting your time? That's one of my issues. The other issue is the unprofessionalism. You don't talk to public officials in that way if you want to keep a positive relationship."

Recently, Mr. Berry threw out the approved Public Records Policy and banned laptops from the Authority building.

Mr. Berry: "I'm  not askin for a raise."

Finally, Mr. Adams brought up the subject of salary negotiations. It was agreed to have a committee discuss these with Mr. Berry and then bring back its recommendations to the Board.

Mr. Berry interjected, "I'm agreeable to what you're payin me now. I'm not askin for a raise."

As part-time Hospital Authority Manager, without verified hospital management training and without any experience, but with good ol' boy recommendations, Mr. Berry is earning approximately $60,000 including his benefits for 24 unverified hours a week.

It was no surprise when the board voted six in favor, one against giving Mr. Berry the position full-time.

Photo updated Mar 16, 2011  11:46 am

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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