The week began with a public records lawsuit against Broward Health, then came news that the vacationing Senior Vice president Broward Health personal director Dionne Wong had resigned, then CEO of Broward Health’s flagship hospital – Broward Medical, was forced out. Although I do not, as yet have copies of their severance agreements – I suspect that they were consistent with the gag order agreement of ousted Doris Peek from a couple of weeks ago. I have made a public records request for these severance agreements and will post them when received.
Here’s some of the rest of this developing story.
For some time, Dionne Wong has been remarkably excluded from involvement with the excessively long corporate CEO search now filled on an interim basis by Ms. Beverly Capasso. You will recall that Ms. Capasso was a Broward Health Board Member when she was appointed interim CEO – an action with an active ethics and sunshine investigation by the Broward State Attorney.
But I digress, the permanent CEO search has been alternatively started, stopped, started, pending primarily at the initiative of Board member Chris Ure. Meanwhile, a costly “outside independent consultant” has been conducting the non-existent search and vetting candidates for a job that most think has already been filled by a Governor Scott’s appointment Capasso through what many consider an illegal Board action.
Importantly, it was Dionne Wong who purportedly had the responsibility for an academic verification on Capasso’s bogus mail-order degree. This type of verification is standard due diligence for all Broward Health’s employees. Clearly, Ms. Wong wasn’t sitting with the new cool kids of Barrett, Capasso, Ure, Rodriguez, et al..
An important corollary to these high-level personnel purges is the management evaluation contract, the brain child of Board Member Chris Ure which was used to stall the search for a permanent CEO. His argument essentially was the assertion that if they system [he] didn’t know what was needed to be done, how could they [he] select a CEO. The argument is silly on its face and shouts the Boards collective incompetence or collusion to disrupt the system for as yet unknown purposes. Fortunately, when URE’s management consultant wanted millions of dollars to manage Broward Health, Chairman Rocky Rodreguez stopped the nonsense and aggressively objected. Did the management consultant think they were Porritt and Zimmerman?
Dionne Wong also played an important role in the ouster of previous CEO Frank Nask and the short lived El Sanadi’ tenure as CEO cut short by his suicide. Dionne Wong, together with Donna Lewis, Doris Peek (the triple “D’s”) served as El Sanadi’s “kitchen” cabinet and responsible for much of the ill-advised administrative decisions that have accelerated the district’s downward management spiral.
The CEO of Broward Health’s flagship hospital Broward Medical Center had the unforgivable sin of pushing back against some of Corporate Counsel Lynn Barrett’s edicts citing charter, bylaws and statutes. Clearly, he had to go.
Add these “resignations” to the retiring interim Broward Health Finance Director Art Wallace in mid-September who is being replaced by another Jackson Hospital North alumni (Barrett & Capasso) and the Jackson gang is getting back together in Broward, landing on their feet and making tons of public money. What a deal!
Currently, there is no discernable effort to find a permanent CEO to replace the interim CEO Beverly Capasso. And while this non-effort continues, Ms. Capasso is hiring permanent staff to fill purged employees. This is not the action of an interim. I again give voice to generally accepted charade that predict Capasso is here to stay until a competent and proficient Board is appointed.
The unavoidable optic of these “resignations” is that Broward Health Corporate Counsel Lynn Barrett, apparently together with her pal – Interim Broward Health CEO Beverly Capasso, appear to be consolidating their hold around the neck of Broward Health, purging anyone in their path. The feckless Board continues to turn a blind eye and seems indifferent to the thousands of employees and the public they purportedly serve.
Hush Money Severance Agreements
“Severance agreements are more than just a “thank you” payment from an employer. They could prevent an employee from working for a competitor and waive any right to pursue a legal claim against the former employer. Also, an employee may be giving up the right to seek unemployment compensation. … The payments in some cases will continue only until the former employee has found another job.” Wikipedia
Agreements as an inducement of employment can provide severance benefits by providing payments for each year of service, vacation & sick time accrued. Typical severance agreements also include both a confidentiality and a general release of claims with a covenant not to sue with a non-disparagement clause. With the high pay rate being offered to generally inexperienced candidates for senior Broward Health jobs – where loyalty and past friendship to Barrett and Capasso appears to be the most important employee quality, it is hard to justify offering severance benefits as a job inducement at Broward Health.
But typical severance agreements for private companies are inappropriate for public organizations. In Florida, there could be an argument for confidentiality for narrow issues that can be discussed in “shade” meetings (meetings of public boards that can be conducted in private- by statute). Non-disparagement and confidentiality prohibitions on any other issue in severance agreements – are not only inappropriate but also nothing more than hush money.
It is a hush money practice this Broward Health Board promised to discontinue, yet here they are – unchanged!
Action for the Board: The board must execute an irrevocable release of any confidentiality, non-disparagement, and law-suit prohibition clause on any matters not lawfully excluded from public disclosure by statute to everyone who has an active severance agreement with Broward Health.
Sunshine & Public Records
Transparency in more than an unfulfilled promise by Broward Health’s Board – it is the law. But Broward Health’s gaggle of attorneys spend an inordinate amount of the public’s money finding ways to skirt the law and parse the statute.
Here’s why Broward Health gets away with it.
If Broward Health violates the open government laws – either, the State Attorney initiates charges or someone files a lawsuit (as happened on Monday – see below). In response, Broward Health hires lawyers to defend, and the public pays. At the end, if a Judge assesses fines and/or fees to the successful litigation – again the public pays.
The public always pays, right or wrong, for Broward Health’s “alleged” intentional violation of statutes governing government in the sunshine. But, in the case of lawsuits, the public can learn from the allegations contained in the pleadings. Note paragraphs 51 & 52 on page 12:20170802PublicRecordsComplaint
In addition to seemingly constant public records violations (most of which are not significant enough to litigate), meeting procedures consistently violate sunshine rules with respect to meeting notices, the publishing of agenda’s, the availability of meeting documents and even procedural notice that the public may speak not only at the beginning of the meeting on any matter – but also speak to any item on the agenda at the time the item is on the floor. It is more than aggravating that a public entity with more than a 2-billion-dollar budget is so cavalier with its meetings and decision process.
Action for the Board: Post meeting notices, agenda’s and meeting documents timely and in advance of all Board meetings. During the meeting, ask for public input on each and every action agenda item. Follow the spirit and the law on public records. Make transparency Broward Health’s policy.
It’s Time To Act.
I’ve decided to end my posts with a call to action. In addition to clearly delineating suggested remedial actions I think the Board should take. I include the following actions others might consider.
- The medical staff at Broward Health (each Hospital) should conduct a No-Confidence vote on the Board and management of Broward Health.
- Everyone who is so inclined, should withhold financial and political assistance to Governor Scott”s senatorial campaign until he appoints qualified people to fill the vacancies on the Broward Health Board. This means that physicians should stop sending money to Scott until he does his job. (I intend to “out” all Broward contributors to the Governor or his various committees until he does his damn job!)
- Demand the Broward State Attorney convene a grand jury to examine Broward Health’s business dealings, employee policies, Broward Health’s handling of public records, shade meeting, sunshine statutes, and anything else that is discovered. It”s time for real transparency.
- Demand the Governor report on the findings of his Inspector General’s and the reported FDLE investigation into Broward Health.
- Demand from your congressional delegation a report on the findings or progress of the HHS Inspector General’s, the Federal Grand jury and the FBI ongoing investigations. Enough already. If there is or were wrongdoing – deal with it, if not – remove the cloud of suspicion.
- Tell everyone that the conduct of the current Broward Health Board, and the mismanagement of the District is not only wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, but is also costing lives.