Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007

Lake Shore Hosp Authority

LSHA Final Budget Hearing a Train Wreck:  No Questions Allowed

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Monday night, Governor Scott's Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA) Board held its final budget hearing. The Board ignored Authority Manager Berry's continuing rude behavior. The tax rate had a built in $1.5+ mil surplus. Chairwoman Chancy, in contravention of the law, claimed the public was not to be asking questions at the budget hearing.

In Part II, the meeting concludes in chaos when the Resolution establishing the millage rate was not read into the record. After a bunch of whispering by Board Attorney Fred Koberlein,  Board Member Foreman's amended motion attempting to approve the millage rate was never voted upon.

Jennifer Maudlin reads a recap of the LSHA budget.

Who said that?
What is going on with this budget?

The LSHA employs Powell & Jones as its outside auditor, accountant, and financial advisor. Company principle Richard Powell has attended Authority budget hearings for years. On Monday night, Jennifer Maudlin represented the firm.

The draft minutes of Monday's, September 26 meeting state: "Ms. Jennifer Mauldin, with Powell and Jones gave [an] overview of [the] Budget that was presented in the September 12, 2016 meeting."

Read the 2 presentations

This is not true.

The presentations were different. The Operating Fund and Overall Budget totals were different between the approved tentative budget of September 12 and the presented budget of September 26.

Chancy addressed the Board:  "Any questions? Any comments?"

The Governor's Board did not ask any questions. No explanation was given for the $5,392 difference.

The Authority minutes of the budget hearings of September 12 and September 26 are also silent regarding any explanations.

The Public Addressed the Board
Manager's Rude Behavior Ignored

Ms. Buck-Camp is over and to the right of Mr. Berry's left shoulder. Essentially, he turned his back on her.

Lake City resident Sandra Buck-Camp addressed the Board. Manager Berry turned away from her. The Governor's Board ignored it.

After the meeting, your reporter asked Ms. Buck-Camp, a retired pharmacist, if she was offended by the action of Manager Berry.

She said, "Of course I was. All I asked for was a copy of the legend explaining the budget. Why doesn't anybody say anything to him?"

After Ms. Buck-Camp asked for the legend, Ms. Chancy said they were available where she was standing, at the podium. Ms. Buck-Camp said there weren't any. Neither Mr. Berry, Mr. Koberlein, nor any Board member offered her a copy.

Ms. Barbara Lemley addressed the Board.

Manager Berry ramped up his posture for the other speakers.

When she came to the podium, Mr. Berry dug in. He turned away from her as much as he could without facing the wall and put his arm and hand over his face. The Governor's Board remained silent.

Ms. Lemley addressed the health insurance costs for the three Authority employees. Their medical insurance costs are fully funded by the taxpayers.

Ms. Lemley asked about employee health care and an employer provided plan.

Ms. Maudlin said Mr. Berry was not included and his health care is addressed in his contract.

Ms. Lemley mentioned the two office employees and questioned whether the Authority looked for a plan.

Ms. Chancy said, "Excuse me. Yes we did. We could not get one [a policy] because we are so small. I think if you remember some of our previous meetings, it was discussed and we could not afford to get it."

Research shows that insurance is available to the Authority for its employees.

Neither Manager Berry, nor any Board member provided the current reimbursement costs of the employee health care plans.

At the September 12 budget hearing, the Board approved $5,000 for the employees to use for what appeared to be their deductibles and out of pocket expenses.

Public comment and questions were not allowed on the reimbursement provision prior to its approval.

This is in clear violation of both SB50 and Florida Statute 200.065 (e)1: "The general public shall [must] be allowed to speak and to ask questions prior to adoption of any measures by the governing body."

The September 12 minutes state the following: "Mr. Berry suggests guidelines for this policy and he will come back to the Board September 19th with those."

The September 19 meeting didn't happen: Another Year Where the Auth Can't Get It Right: Tonight's Budget Hearing Canceled.  On September 26, Mr. Berry did not bring back guidelines which were publicly acknowledged. This may have been done in the back room with the Board members.

Up next, your reporter asked about the recently established Self Insurance Fund for the Authority's legal fees. "I don't see this fund anyplace in the budget. You have $400,000 that's constrained. If it is, I would like to know where it is."

In clear violation of the Sunshine law, Manager Berry whispers to the Chair, "It's not in the budget itself." Mr. Berry's remarks were not available to the human ear and were picked up on the supersensitive microphones on your reporter's recorder.

Manager Berry whispers again, "Madam Chairman, it's not in the budget. It's set aside."

Your reporter: "I can't hear him."

Ms. Chancy made the relay: "It's not in the budget... It is set up in a separate account to be used only for legal funds."

Your reporter:  "It's a fund?"

Unidentified from the audience:  "It's a reserve."

Ms. Chancy:  "I used the wrong term. It is a reserve, not a fund."

Your reporter:  "That's ok. There is nothing at all in the budget that indicates where it is."

Health Insurance for the Employees

Your reporter moved back to the topic of health insurance.

There is nothing in the budget or any other material provided by the Authority for the budget hearing that shows how the public's money is being spent on employee health insurance costs, or the health care reimbursement fund that was just built into this year's budget.

Your reporter said, "I did some research. I will advise this Board that it is not true -- that you can get a policy... I looked in the Obama care marketplace and you can get policies for two people. I know it's difficult. You can get a fine if you don't, but you can get insurance policies for two people."

No Questions Allowed

Your reporter mentioned Manager Berry's pay and health care costs and mentioned that even though everybody is saying he didn't get a pay increase the numbers indicate otherwise.

Your reporter asked, "I am particularly concerned about Mr. Berry's health insurance, because he gets Medicare and he also has VA Advantage. I would like to know how much we are reimbursing Mr. Berry for his health insurance and on what basis we are doing that?"

Ms. Chancy mentioned your reporter's time was up.

Your reporter inquired, "It is up for answers?"

Ms. Chancy answered, "You're not supposed to be asking questions. You're supposed to be making comments."

Part II: Final Budget Hearing Concludes in Chaos, Budget Not Approved

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More LSHA stories are here.

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
Tim Murphy - a nice guy, talented welder, clueless about government
Board Chairwoman 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).