In the sometimes bizarro world of Broward Health, breaches of ethics and a Civil War is brewing just below the surface. One side is Lynn Barrett, Broward Health’s Corporate Counsel. Remarkably it appears the other side is CEO, Bev Capasso, recently emboldened by her loosely negotiated employment contract.
Broward Health’s Board of Commissioners seems to split among the two camps. Then there was the appointment of the newest Board member, Commissioner Ray Berry. He was impressive at his first set of public meetings and with refreshing confidence, and apparent competence urged the Board back to their fundamental role of independent public oversight of the District.
Newly elected Board Chairman (as a consequence of the sudden resignation of chairman Rodreguiz), Andrew Klein will hopefully lead the Board back to its proper role if Commissioner Berry stays the course. Up until Mr. Berry’s appointment, Commissioner Klein has been justifiably tentative because of the mixed loyalties and the sub-rosa private agenda’s of an evenly split Board.
The problem is, for more than28 months (since February 2016), Governor Rick Scott has failed to appoint a full seven-member Broward Health Board of Commissioners. For most of this period, the board has only had four members – exactly the number required for a quorum.
During this time, there has been a revolving door of fourteen appointed commissioners. Of these fourteen; seven have resigned in disgust, three were indicted and awaiting trial, two have pending ethics charges, one became the CEO and is similarly indicted and waiting for trial.
Adding insult to injury and breaking from past practice, Governor Rick Scott declined to remove the three commissioners (and the interim CEO and the Corporate Attorney) when the Broward Grand Jury returned indictments against them for Sunshine and Florida Open Meeting statutes.
Also under the Governor’s control are the two still pending Inspector General and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigations into Broward Health (since 2016). Notably, still pending are ethics investigations into one current and one past commissioner and of course, there is still the open and pending FBI investigation into Broward Health’s business practices focusing on procurement.
If the Broward Health Board had its full complement of Commissioners, it would be slightly easier to build coalitions and arrive at public oversight. With only five of the seven positions filled – one of the three remaining Commissioners has to join the possible coalition of Klein/Berry. but if that happens, it likely will be issue-based rather than a philosophical alliance.
Adequate Board public oversight would certainly end the obvious abuses by Corporate Counsel Barrett and gait some of her more inexperienced advice to the Board. Meanwhile, if the April accounts payable figures are any indication, Barrett is spending at the annual linear rate of seven million dollars for outside litigation services not counting either typical medical insurance issues or her departmental legal costs of seven-plus inside attorneys.
Absent Board Policy or any heretofore absent Board oversight, Corporate Counsel Barrett will continue to control these legal relationships entirely in her discretion, entirely outside any public purview. Public record requests into these “arrangements”, invoices or financial matters are either “stonewalled” or rebuffed under redaction entirely by Barrett through her out-sourced attorneys at a huge cost to Broward health for a job that should be routine for one of her internal attorney employee
s. For those convinced about the “Deep-State”, you’ll probably note that many of these law firms (either corporately or through individual attorneys) generously contribute to Governor Scott’s various PAC’s and political campaigns or have very close and generally private relationships with individual commissioners.
Note that ex-commissioner Robison (one of the indicted five) is an equity partner in Shutts & Bowen. I have submitted a public record for additional information.PR01
Current Commissioner Gregoire’s benefactor past Attorney General Bob Butterworth with the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney benefits from the largess of Barrett’s generosity making Gregoire an unlikely supporter of robust public oversight.
Typically, when public officials get indicted for violations of their public duty, they are personally responsible for the legal defense until they are vindicated and cleared of all charges. Not so under Barrett. Since she was indicted as well and has a blank legal checkbook by the inaction of the Broward Health Board – everyone’s ongoing legal bills fighting the indictments are on the public. Even though it was Barrett’s open meeting and Sunshine law advice that resulted in her indictment and the indictments of CEO Capasso, Commissioner Ure, and past Commissioner’s Robison and Rodriguez – Barrett decided that Broward Health (the public) would pay.
How is Barrett’s decision to pay her personal legal defense costs, not a conflict, or a significant breach of public and professional ethics?
Then there are the persistent rumors of a Barrett hit list, apparently resulting in both a whistle-blower’s lawsuit for witness tampering and a rumored letter from the State Attorney to Broward Health warning against retaliatory action against those employees subpoenaed and testifying to the grand jury.180406Hatfield-Complaint
Here’s a tip for Barrett: dismissing an employee for “workforce reduction” is the same as “firing” especially when the same job is then given to someone else, the difference being that one testified and the other didn’t.
Then In a remarkable breach of her ethical duty and without any notice to the Board, Barrett’s contract automatically renewed. It would have been her responsibility as Corporate Counsel to provide notice to the Board of any upcoming “direct-report” employment contracts, especially including her’s. “Direct-report” employees are people hired and supervised by the Board and not by Broward Health’s corporate administration.
Then there are the persistent rumors that in spite of Barrett’s robust budget, contracts still are not timely and the medical staff continues to abandon Broward Health in droves.
Now we understand that Barrett is targeting Capasso’s more vocal senior executive staff that has become frustrated with the sub-par performance of Barrett’s legal shop. Deja-Vue to Barrett’s employment history with Jackson, Memorial, and past postings.
In truth, many of us predicted this melt-down to internal civil war between Barrett and everyone else, but we thought that would be a mitigating pressure on an out of control CEO El Sanadi (see previous articles – use search word ‘El Sanadi’ ). We could not predict Dr. El Sanadi’s apparent suicide, Barrett’s moronic legal opinions on public records and sunshine laws, or the welcome grand jury indictments, or the complete failure of Governor Scott to fulfill his duty to appoint a full independent Broward Health Board.
Board politics are important because just below the white-washed surface are serious challenges for Broward Health and Governor Scott’s irresponsibility has negatively impacted the healthcare of Broward and its families for what appears to be pure politics.
The good news is that there is a reason to believe that administratively (excepting legal), things are headed in the right direction. Broward Health is not yet at the pre- El Sanadi & DiPietro disaster condition (see numerous articles – search for keywords ‘El Sanadi’, ‘DiPietro’, and ‘Barrett’), but things are better.
Perhaps, there is some hint of light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned.