Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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LSHA/County News

LSHA Meeting After 3 Month Hiatus: Is a full time Exec Dir/Manager Necessary or Desirable?

When Dr. Thompson spoke about the necessity of a Director, Mr. Berry's look was not friendly.

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Monday night's Lake Shore Hospital Authority meeting had two new governor appointees on the Board. Dr. Mark Thompson, a Lake City radiation oncologist and James (Jay) Swisher, a former Columbia County Sheriff's deputy and the Director of the Public Safety Training Center at FGC. Dr. Thompson questioned the need for an executive director and was engaged in getting up to speed with the goings on of the Authority. Mr. Swisher was quiet, other than recommending a workshop to help get the Authority up to speed.


Hospital Authority Manager [Executive Director] Jack Berry's resignation becomes effective on February 28. On the Board since 2005 and manager since 2010, Mr. Berry is a political operative who many believe was ill suited for the job and not qualified.

From 1996 through 2011, a time when the Authority had up to 1100 clients, Sue Fraze was the only Authority employee. She set up the Authority Financial Assistance Program, ran the Authority's office, and handled all Authority business and financial matters. Ms. Fraze also established the LSHA Prescription Assistance Program. (Photo: Ms. Fraze in 2009)

Ms. Fraze also kept yearly Trustee Books until the time of her termination. These books contained the minutes and all the backup material of all the meetings throughout the years.

Manager Berry terminated Ms. Fraze after 18 years.

After Ms. Fraze's termination, Mr. Berry destroyed the Trustee Books. This appears to be a violation of the state's record retention rules.

Public Records Access
Problematic During the Berry Reign

Manager Berry routinely turned his back when people addressed the Bd.

Under Mr. Berry's leadership, the Authority lost a major public records access lawsuit, after Mr. Berry brazenly violated the public records law, costing Zurich International hundreds of thousands of dollars and the Authority tens of thousands.

Recently, your reporter sued the Authority (Mr. Berry is the records custodian) for another public records violation.

The Authority's wanted your reporter to state that the Authority (Berry) didn't do anything wrong. He refused and settled with the Authority after it agreed to pay his attorney's fees and costs.

Chairman Brandon Beil Opens the Executive Dir. Discussion
Is a full time director/manager necessary?

Dr. Thompson spoke about the necessity of hiring an executive director. He asked the Board, "Do we really need one? I question the necessity?"

Board member Janet Creel followed up, "I didn't see the need to have a full time executive director. We should have a real workshop and see what we really do need."

Board member Lorry Chancy, a 110% supporter of Mr. Berry added, "We need a workshop to bring all of us up to date... Jack has taken care of informing us of all of this before... Jack is our public records custodian. February 28th we do not have a pub record custodian. Who takes care of that? Are you going to take care of that, Brandon (Beil)? I'm very concerned about that because we've had major problems with that."

Ms. Creel said, "Let's see what they [the staff] are capable of taking on."

Ms. Chancy added, "That's going to require us to hire another person."

Dr. Thompson said, "We need a good thorough discussion. A lot of years we didn't have one."

Mr. Swisher inquired, "What's the protocol for calling for a workshop?"

Mr. Beil answered, "We just have to schedule it and make sure that we publish it within 3 days -- five days?

Fred Koberlein           (file)

Attorney Koberlein volunteered, "A responsible amount of time if you were to discuss it tonight and have a date when it could be published."

Mr. Berry tells the Board his last day is February 28.

Ms. Chancy:  "We could do it on the 27th."

Attorney Koberlein:  "72 hours might be seen as reasonable, but if you can give more time that's - unintelligible."

Mr. Beil:  "My only concern with 72 hours is I would like to give Dr. Thompson and Mr. Swisher time to get versed."

Not Going to "Disintegrate"

Dr. Thompson told the Board, "I don't think we are going to disintegrate on the 29th. I don't think that's going to happen. I would like at least a month."

Attorney Koberlein advised, "If you wait till past the 28th without a director you need to go ahead tonight or have a workshop before the 28th to talk about who is going to issue checks."

Dr. Thompson asked, "Are we going to discuss the necessity for a director?"

Mr. Beil followed up, "And if we decide not to hire one, who is going to sign checks?"

Attorney Koberlein said the Board needed to do something with the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the executive director position.

Mr. Beil said, "I think we'll call it workshop – discuss it"

Dr. Thompson added, "This way there is no pressure."

New Bd. member Swisher has a little bit of time to get up to speed.

Mr. Beil followed up, "Have a meeting to discuss it. Do interviews. We can do that."

Attorney Koberlein said the RFQ needed to be updated.

There was talk about calling a special meeting. Dr. Thompson wanted to wait until next month.

M. Beil said, "So we'll discuss it and not take any action on the 22nd. We'll discuss what the needs and desires are and not take any action until the March meeting.

Attorney Koberlein, with an edge in his voice, said, "Let me be a little bit more direct. I don't understand why you hand cuff yourself into not doing anything on the 22nd?"

Mr. Beil responded, "Can we call it a special meeting? How about we call it a special meeting instead of a workshop, so we can take action at that time. And then we can update the RFQ at that time."


Without any motion or vote, the Board decided to meet on February 22 for a special meeting at 5:15 pm.

Authority Attorney Koberlein is going to take care of the notice requirements.

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