Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Lakeshore Hosp Auth:  Hosp Chieftain Berry gets raise, tells Board, "I would rather not have a contract."

Jack Berry, 2009

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Former Jeb Bush appointee, Lakeshore Hospital Authority Chieftain Jackson P. Berry, is a legend in N. Central Florida. Mr. Berry has survived public employment and ethics issues and has a demonstrable history of not liking to be challenged; told what to do; or held up to public scrutiny for acts done as a public official. During this year's Hospital Authority budget cycle, Mr. Berry decided he deserved a raise and ten additional paid days off a year. This turned out to be too much for the Governor's handpicked Board. When he didn't get what he wanted he told the Board, "I would just assume not have a contract." He will have his chance.

July: Berry wants to change his 2 year old contract

More LSHA stories are here.

On July 15, 2013, after Mr. Berry's evaluations were discussed he announced, "Mr. Chairman, I need to say somethin. If the Board's not goin to terminate my contract and they have to give me notice pretty quick, I'd like to renegotiate my contract this year. There is no major changes, but there will be a few changes."

The Board had until October 1st to advise Mr. Berry of its intent to terminate, approximately 75 days away.

It was agreed that Mr. Berry and Authority Attorney Feagle would sit down and bring back a contract to the Board on August 12th, the date of the next meeting.

August 12th: there was no contract

On August 12th there was no contract. Instead, Attorney Feagle told the Board that Mr. Berry wanted a pay increase of 5% to $80,000, and that he wanted to increase his leave time from the present 16 days to 26 paid days off. 

Mr. Feagle said the current contract provides that leave time and other benefits of the Executive Director will be the same as that of the other employees.

Mr. Berry told the Board that he wrote the personnel policy three years ago.

Board member Douglas said, "We have a policy now and we want to change it for a one-time scenario? I'm not sure I understand why we are doing that."

Earlier today, the Observer forwarded Mr. Berry's remarks to City Manager Johnson. This afternoon, Mr. Johnson responded via the City Clerk:
Good afternoon.  Here is the response from Mr. Johnson.  “No. They have never given me 10 bonus days.   I have received an extra 40 hours before three times.” 

Mr. Berry responded, "What the City does is the City awards the City Manager a bonus 10 days vacation each year which is outside the City policy."

Mr. Douglas, "Ten days vacation?"

Mr. Berry, "He gets the regular personnel -- according to the personnel policy -- and then they award him another 10 days vacation every year. That's the way he [City Manager Wendell Johnson] explained this to me... They give him an additional 10 which comes up to 26 days a year."

Board member Marc Vann joined in, "You're like sayin it's like a bonus they give him?"

After some more conversation Mr. Douglas said, "I'm OK possibly with the increase, but I think it's a lot of time -- 26 days."

Board member Chancy opined, "I don't think that's inconsistent with other directors."

Mr. Douglas asked, "What directors?"

Ms. Chancy, "Of other agencies."

Mr. Douglas, "This existing personnel policy is mimicking the County policy. That's what they went after. Now we want to do a change in it just because Jack wants 26 days. If we want to stay consistent we need to stay with what we have already... It was ok for three years and now it's not ok?"

In FY 2011, the three other LSHA employees received a 5% pay increase. Mr. Berry did not receive that increase; however, in April of 2011 Mr. Berry's salary went from $45,000 to 76,000.

Jack Berry, 2011

After the Board learned that the County was not, at least so far, giving any raises, Mr. Berry demonstrated the demeanor for which he has become a legend.

Mr. Berry told the Board, "I'll tell you what - Mr. Chairman, let's just withdraw this proposal."

Marc Vann came to Mr. Berry's aid, "I don't know that you need to withdraw it."

Mr. Berry, shortly, "I got an answer to the problem. I'll solve it."

The Board checked the personnel policy, the policy that Mr. Berry had written himself. Mr. Berry was asking for a benefit which was given to an employee with 10 years of tenure.

Mr. Berry's salary was put over to the next meeting.

Mr. Vann observed, "I think Stephen's [Mr. Douglas] concern is just a number, rather than something that says – whatever.

September 11th: here we go again

Attorney Feagle announced that Mr. Berry's contract would have to be amended if he were to get a raise; and or that Mr. Berry would have to be excluded from the personnel policy.

New Board member and Berry devotee, Tim Murphy said, "I'm not sayin I'm not in agreeance to any additional vacation time because of all the years of service on this Board."

Mr. Berry served on the Lakeshore Hospital Authority Board for about seven years. Board members are appointed by the governor to unpaid positions.

Berry claimed spending $100 a week on fuel: "I ain't writin down the mileage."

There was discussion about giving Mr. Berry a car allowance. He said he didn't want one and that most of his travel was between the Hospital, City Hall and the County, (all within 5 minutes walking distance from his office). He said, "I spend about $100 a week on fuel."

Lori Chancy wanted to give Mr. Berry everything he was asking for.

Then he emphatically told the Board, "I ain't gonna write down the mileage every time I run to the courthouse -- it just ain't gonna happen. And I'd just rather eat it myself and get it over with."

Mr. Berry's friend, Marc Vann, cut the conversation short by making a motion to give Mr. Berry a 5% raise."

A frustrated Berry told the Board, "Why don't we just throw the contract away and treat me as an employee?"

When Mr. Douglas said, "I don't understand that," Mr. Berry said, "It's simple -- I don't have to give you 90 days notice and you don't have to give me 90 days notice. Just treat me as an employee."

Mr. Douglas said, "So you want to keep your salary as it is; the vacation that you have now, and be treated as an employee --- so all we are doing is throwing out the 90 days?"

Jack Berry, 2012

Mr. Berry responded, "Do whatever you want to do. It's fine with me."

Mr. Douglas, "Well you suggested it."

Mr. Berry, "That's exactly right. I think I deserve mo. If the Board don't wanna give me mo, that's perfectly all right with me. I don't have a problem with it. Then I have decisions to make."

The Board voted to give Berry a 5% raise with Ms. Chancy voting against it because she thought Berry should get both the raise and the additional time off.

When Attorney Feagle asked if the raise was effective October 1 or retroactive, Mr. Berry interrupted and announced, "I would just assume not have a contract." A decision was not made.


Mr. Berry's contract, whatever it says has to be approved by the Board. We may see at the next budget hearing how serious Mr. Berry is about being treated "just like an employee."

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