Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007

Lake Shore Hospital Authority

LSHA: Gov's Board Working On How To Give Free Rent & a Ton of Medical Equipment To a For-Profit Corporation

Governor DeSantis Board appointees Lory Chancy and Stephen Douglas with headline: Lake Shore Hospital Authority - Almost $3 mil spent on a vacant hospital
Columbia County Observer photo & graphic

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Lake Shore Hospital Authority’s hospital, Shands at Lake Shore, has been vacated, closed, and out of business since October 2020. The Authority is run by an illegally constituted Board appointed by Florida Governor DeSantis. It has spent an average of $81,495 monthly, keeping the vacated hospital from falling in on itself. The Authority client base is up two from its all-time low last month.

This past Monday evening, the Governor's Board met for an update from the Authority's part-time Manager and North Florida legend, Dale Williams, the former (33 years) Columbia County County Manager.

Not included in the evening’s update:

The Governor's Board and its Manager knew the hospital operator was vacating the hospital in May 2020. The Board and Manager did nothing to ramp up finding a tenant.

Since October 2020, the Governor’s Board has spent almost $3 million, or $81,500 a month, to maintain the vacant, out-of-business hospital.

The Authority has 33 clients, down from a high of over a thousand thirteen years ago, for whom it provides services. The total Authority budget is $21,316,000 or $645,939 a client.

Monday’s Authority Meeting: Noteworthy

Besides taking care of routine government business, the purpose of Monday's meeting was to hear an update from Authority Manager Dale Williams.

Dale Williams Lake Shore Hosp. Authority Manager
Dale Williams Authority Manager (file)

Manager Williams began, telling the Board, “I wish to give updates on our ongoing attempts to provide medical services on the Lake Shore Hospital Campus."

Manager Williams introduced Dr. Michael White, who, along with his wife, Dr. Molly White, proposed opening an urgent care clinic in one of the Authority's vacated buildings.

Manager Williams explained the White’s proposal, “They have an interest in building a business, which we call urgent care, but it far exceeds urgent care. I had previously provided you all with a list of services that they were proposing to provide versus what a standard urgent care would provide. And of course, the idea would be to ultimately, one day, if everything goes well, actually grow into a standalone copy, or maybe something like what Shands calls a neighborhood hospital."

The Shands at Lake Shore Hospital has an emergency room with a carport for ambulances and receiving facilities.

Left out of Manager Williams' conversation is that Meridian Behavioral Services, who is negotiating the transfer of the hospital to Meridian, has plans for a primary care clinic. Meridian CEO Don Savoie has told your reporter that he would be happy to sit down with Doctors White to discuss an association.

Manager Williams said there had been discussions about using the ER, but it “hasn’t really worked out.”

Manager Williams continued, "One thing for certain is we want Meridian to be a customer of EM Pals (the d/b/a/ name of the Whites’ company, Your ER Solutions, LLC).

Big Problems With the Mike & Molly – LSHA Relationship

Manager Williams touched upon the legal problems you did not read about in the sugar-coated mainstream media report.

The Authority’s going into business with EM Pals, a.k.a. Doctors Mike & Molly, is problematic. EM Pals and the Authority are looking into forming a public-private partnership ("P3"). The details have not been worked out for a reason.

Manager Williams said, “The problem is really one of legality… There's constitutional issues – there's statutory issues.”

The Constitutional Issue

Attorney Bruce Robinson of RKK
Bruce Robinson of RKK, one of the LSHA attorneys who is looking for a way to slide EM Pals past the goal line.

Doctors White have been at the table since February 2022. Their Statement of Interest showed they were interested in working with the Authority as a partner or joint venture and were willing to sign a lease.

The Authority is bending over backward to accommodate them. Their Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) is a for-profit business. That is the main problem.

Article VII, section 10, Florida Constitution, provides in part:

"Neither the state nor any county, school district, municipality, special district, or agency of any of them, shall become a joint owner with, or stockholder of, or give, lend or use its taxing power or credit to aid any corporation, association, partnership or person…."

The Florida Supreme Court has applied Article VII, section 10, in determining the propriety of a business arrangement between a public entity and a private company.

The law and the FL Constitution frown upon public agencies going into business with for-profit companies.

So far, the agreements look like a joint ownership-partnership with the Authority (read taxpayers), subsidizing Doctors Mike & Molly by paying all the rent for the first three years. Then the rent is based on Fair Market Value as long as the Authority has 2,000 clients. The rent would be pro-rated until the Authority has more than 5001 clients.

As mentioned, the Authority recently went from an all-time low of 31 to 33 clients.

The Authority, in its heyday, had a thousand clients; that was before the ACA.

Business Plan – Up In the Air

The business plan between Doctors Mike & Molly and the Authority is up in the air.

The Authority Attorney, besides researching a way to circumvent established law and constitutional issues to accommodate the Whites, suggested nailing down a lease agreement.

Richard Powell of Powell & Jones
Richard Powell, the Authority's Internal Auditor-Financial Advisor-External Auditor-Accountant

Doctors White sent the Authority's Internal Auditor-Financial Advisor-External Auditor-Accountant (all one person), Richard Powell, a seventeen-page list of equipment he would need the Authority to provide for him to operate.

The dollar amount of the equipment request is about $650,000. Neither Richard Powell nor Dr. White mentioned the amount during the Monday meeting.

As part of a proposed business agreement, the Authority will pay Doctors White the difference between the practice collections and $125,000 monthly.


As the meeting wound down, Meridian came up.

Chairman Beil asked if Manager Williams had heard from Meridian.

Manager Williams said, “Well, I think it's just like Dr. White. They’re [an] interested party; they want that building. You know, they would like to be a partner with the Authority. It's not like we're having to entice them to get em’ to the table. They want to be at the table just like Dr. White wants to be at the table. So those are not issues. It's just a matter of can we come to a meeting of the mind and understanding of all the various nuances that are required here.

Lauren Cohn, Exec V/P & COO, Meridian
Lauren Cohn, Exec V/P & COO, Meridian

Meridian has made it clear that they are not looking to be “a partner with the Authority.”

On Monday morning, March 20, Meridian and the authority staff are set to meet at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority headquarters. The meeting is closed to the public and should be closed to the Board members unless the Authority wants to notice the meeting as public.

Meridian is looking to have the Authority deed the Hospital to them. Meridian will finance and invest about $11 mil of its own money in upgrading and renovating the building.

The Authority's footdragging will cost Meridian, at current interest rates, about $1.5 mil in additional interest to finance the renovations to the hospital should the deal go through.


The Lake Shore Hospital Authority has outlived its useful life.

This fact is being ignored by Governor DeSantis's Board and North Central Florida Representative Chuck Brannan.

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