Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Hosp Auth Gives $1,000 Cash Bonuses - Just Tip of the Iceberg:  Berry Hires Away 12 Yr. LC Chamber Employee To Replace Deposed Veteran

Jackson P. "Jack" Berry

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – This past Monday night, Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board rubber stamped a $1,000 cash bonus for each of its two regular employees. This was just the tip of the iceberg. On top of the cash bonuses, one received a 6.1% increase for 2015, and the other 26.32%. The increases go into effect October 1.

The Observer has also learned that 12 year Lake City/Columbia County Chamber veteran, Sonja Meads, is the new employee hired to replace Sue Fraze, the recently terminated 18 year Authority veteran.

Cynthia Watson: 6.1% raise and $1000 extra for work

Cynthia Watson was hired as an administrative assistant at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority just as fiscal year 2011 began. In FY 2012 her job title was changed to Financial Analyst. For 2015, Manager Berry has reclassified her again, this time as a Financial Assistance Counselor.

The Berry/Board approved rubber stamped salaries are here.

Ms. Watson has received a 17% increase (based on salary) over the past 5 years, which includes 6.1% increase for 2015. There is no record of the Governor's Board ever requesting a job description for a Financial Analyst, nor has one been approved.

While County Employees Received Almost Nothing, The Daughter-In-Law of a LC Judge Hit the Jackpot.

Courtney Bryan, the daughter-in-law of LC Circuit Court Judge Paul S. Bryan, was introduced by Manager Berry as the newly hired secretary/receptionist on July 11, 2011. Two months later she received a 5% raise.

On October 14, 2013, Manager Berry told the Authority Board, "Courtney went to part time because everything's slowed down. So she’s only working three days a week now." Her hourly rate at that time was $16.54. Ms. Bryan continued to receive her full time hourly rate.

A confirmed source explained to the Observer that things had been really slow at the Authority.

This year (effective on October 1 for FY 2015), Ms. Bryan, who is also the niece of Board member Tim Murphy, has received a 26.3% hourly increase over last year. There is nothing in the Authority budget documents that states that Ms. Bryan in now working part time.

Over the past 4 years, Ms. Bryan received a 41.5% increase in pay (based on total cost).

The Bonus: $1000 each for 60 days with minimal overtime

During Monday night's illegal budget hearing, Manager Berry told the Authority Board, "The primary care program is working good" and continued that the primary reason "is these two girls, Cynthia and Courtney."

The "primary care program" is the unpublicized program that cares for some of the county's indigent.

As a result of the termination Sue Fraze, Manager Berry claimed, "We saved $10,000 since June in salaries. These two girls have picked up the workload, for the most part."

He said, "I would like for this board to show their appreciation of these two girls with a $1000 bonus each before the end of the year." For budget purposes, the end of the year is the last day of September.

Newly appointed Board member, Janet Creel, didn't miss a beat. Asking no questions she said, "I make a motion to pay each one thousand dollars and say Merry Christmas."

Board member Lory Chancy said, "I second."

Chairman Khan said, "We have a motion. We have second."

Ms. Creel added, "They do the salary of three people. So, we're kinda paying them to do extra work."

Manager Berry told the Board, "They've done it with very minimal overtime -- very minimal overtime." He explained that the Authority didn't give Christmas bonuses.

Ms. Creel jumped in again, "This is just substitute paying them for the job they've been doing for the person that's not here."

Manager Berry said the amount would be in their next pay check.

Board member Murphy wanted to know if it was going to be called a performance bonus and asked, "It's legal?"

The Authority Attorney, Marlin Feagle had left earlier.

The Inside-Outside Auditor Stands In With Legal Advice

The Authority's accountant, internal auditor, and external auditor (all one person) Richard Powell, and "stand-in attorney" told the Board, "As long as it serves a public purpose; is not discriminatory; it has the criteria as the rights being given and I think so Jack (unintelligible) he stated orally -- he should write the specifics."

When Representative Elizabeth Porter's Chief of Staff, Koby Adams, who is also an Authority Board member asked who made the motion and suggested that it should be restated, the Board got confused and Ms. Chancy said, "I did."

Richard Powell said something that was entirely unintelligible.

Ms. Chancy gave it a college try, "That a $1000 bonus be given to each of our -- now how am I going to put that?"

Ms. Creel threw her a life ring, "Secretarial staff?"

Ms. Chancy continued, "Secretarial staff for stepping up and taking on additional work responsibilities for -- with very short notice."

Auditor-Stand-in-Attorney Powell tried to be helpful, "Without any additional pay for hirin' rates and services."

Ms. Chancy tried, "Without any additional pay for higher grade services."

Ms. Creel, the original movant seconded the motion.

Board member Stephen Douglas said, "I'm not opposed to the bonus, but I am opposed to the amount of money."

Koby Adams asked to laughter, "Did you wanna do more?"

Ms. Creel wanted to know if Manager Berry was included.

When it became clear that Berry, a past Republican Chieftain, as was her husband, wasn't eligible she asked, "Does that become discriminatory?"

Mr. Murphy, a friend of Mr. Berry, added something that was totally unintelligible.

The bonus passed without a dissenting vote.


The new hire, Sonja Meads, will be beginning in a couple of weeks.

She will be moving from a job at the Chamber with one of Florida's most classy managers, Dennille Decker, to the legendary Lake Shore Hospital Authority and its infamous and challenged Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry.

She might do well to take a page from the County's IT manager, Todd Manning, who some time ago turned in his resignation to the County after agreeing to work across the street for City Manager Wendell Johnson. Mr. Manning thought hard and changed his mind.

Ms. Meads would do well to do some thinking on her own.


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