Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hospital Authority

LSHA: Governor’s Board Breezes Through Monthly Meeting in 18 Minutes. Foot Dragging Cost County Taxpayers Millions & Rising

Blackboard with headline: Lake Shore Hospital Authority -- $2 million of taxpayer money squandered
Blackboard by NEOSiAM via Pexels | Columbia County Observer graphic

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Monday night, Governor Ron DeSantis’s illegally constituted Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board blew through the evening’s agenda in eighteen minutes.  

Background: Foot Dragging 101

In May 2020, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority Governor’s Board (the Board) was advised that its tenant, CHS, was abandoning the hospital.

On June 25, 2020, the Board authorized part-time Authority Manager Dale Williams to request Statements of Interest. These were informal proposals to take over the soon-to-be-vacated hospital.

Three months later, on September 10, the Governor's Board was still trying to figure out what to do. The hospital was within thirty days of abandonment. Four months had passed since Manager Williams was advised the hospital was being abandoned.

During a special September 14, 2020, meeting, Manager Williams explained that maintaining the vacated hospital would cost $147,000 a month. The Board approved $150k.

During the October – November Board meetings, there was no mention of the previously agreed Request for Proposal/Statements of Interest. The hospital was now vacant for sixty days at the Dale Williams estimated cost of almost $300,000.

Finally, at the first meeting in January 2021, Manager Williams mentioned the proposals and asked the Board members to contact the staff to set up a meeting date.

During the February 8, 2021, Board meeting, there was no mention of any of the proposers for the vacated hospital.

One year – One proposal

The Authority was on target to withdraw $620,000 from the bank through March 2021 to keep the empty hospital going. By May 10, 2021, one year after the Board discovered CHS was leaving town, only one proposer had visited the Authority.

After almost another year of foot-dragging, 2022 brought Meridian, Hope Bridges, and Florida Gateway College to the Authority to make presentations for the takeover of the hospital.

Florida Gateway College had the support of a Tallahassee PAC, but not the support of the college Board. After a few months, FGC faded away.

Hope Bridges, aka Willie Peacock, was rejected by the Board in late 2022. You can read more about Willie Peacock here: Lake Shore Hospital Authority: Willie Peacock – Who will he be tonight? What will he promise?

And here: LSHA: Illegally Constituted Gov’s Authority Board Refuses to Vet Main Contender for Vacated Hospital – Or Did It?

Meridian made a final proposal to the Authority in June 2022. Meridian said it would take the vacated hospital and renovate it at its own expense. The Meridian proposal is here: LSHA: Gov's. Bd. Hears Third Hospital Proposal. Meridian Will Provide Everything from Inpatient Care to Counseling – Drug Rehab to Primary Care

The only person to complain about the proposed location of Meridian was community activist Sylvester Warren: LSHA-Meridian, Part III: Community Activist and Former Drug Dealer Opposes the Meridian Plan

While there were rumors that the downtown business community was not in favor of Meridian locating to the vacant hospital, not one of them showed up at a Hospital Authority Meeting and complained, and neither did the Chamber of Commerce, which has abandoned the downtown.

Monday Night At the Authority

Monday night was another example of misinformation and foot-dragging 101 by Authority Manager Dale Williams.

At approximately 4:30 pm, on the day of the meeting, Authority Manager Williams finally got in touch with Meridian’s President/CEO Don Savoie, who Mr. Williams referenced as the executive director.

Mr. Williams claimed Meridian was "petitioning for the deed to the actual hospital itself, the four-story main hospital.”

Mr. Williams’s rendition of the Meridian proposal is jaundiced in its dearth of facts. To secure financing for what appears to be an eventual $10 mil renovation of the hospital, Meridian needs to own it. Without the deed, there could be no deal.

At a past meeting, Manager Williams mentioned that transferring the hospital to Meridian could be problematic. This is also not accurate. Meridian is a non-profit, and the transfer would not be a problem.

For months, Meridian CEO Savoie has offered tours to the Authority Board. No one has asked for the tour.

Manager Williams Gets Florida’s Sunshine Law Wrong

Finally, on Monday night, Manager Williams scheduled a tour of the Meridian campus for Chairman Beil and himself, telling the Board that because of the Sunshine laws, "we all can't go down there."

This is not true. The Board can schedule a workshop at Meridian, attend and ask questions all within the ambit of Florida’s Sunshine laws. The meeting would have to be noticed as a workshop, and anyone in Columbia County or anywhere else could attend.

Earlier today, CEO Savoie said he welcomes having an official Authority meeting at the Gainesville Meridian campus, and all would be welcome. "If we get a big crowd, we'll have it in the parking lot," he said.

The Authority's new attorney did not clarify the Sunshine law meeting rules during the meeting, resulting in the Governor's Board being ill-informed and confused due to the inaccuracies of Manager Williams.

Manager Williams's interpretation of the Sunshine law also bollixed up the planning of a county-wide meeting with Meridian.

Manager Williams told the Board: “Trustees are going to be invited and also not just invited but encouraged to attend, but only to listen. You've already been advised that you should not partake in any conversation as part of these public hearings because your comments could be viewed as sunshine law violations if more than one of you are in attendance. So you've already been advised about legally, and I think it's only fair that the public that is there be told that… And so, at the very least, we need to let them know you're not being rude. You're just trying to adhere to the law. But it is important; I think that you be there to listen.”

Once again, Manager Williams is out of touch with the Sunshine Law. Chairman Beil can call a workshop, facilitate the meeting; have the Governor’s trustees available for questions and asking questions, and no one is in violation of anything.


Authority foot-dragging is ongoing, costing Columbia County taxpayers for fiscal year 2023 approximately $40,000 a month. 

Misinformation and bogus advice from Manager Williams may cost taxpayers additional money because of avoidable delays.

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