This week, a judge struck down Florida Governor Rick Scott’s suspension of David DiPietro & Darrell Wright and in an ironic twist – the Judge was right. (Scott Wrong to Boot Appointee for Malfeasance-Judge Rules – Miami Herald, Judge-To-Scott-Reinstate-Suspended-Broward-Health-Chairman – Local 10, Di-Pietro-Reinstated – Sun Sentinel) While any reader of the blog this past year would find ample grounds to not only suspend but even remove Mr. David DiPietro and Mr. Darrell Wright for improper conduct as board members, the singular stated reasons for the Governor’s actions were remarkably off the mark. It’s like missing the fish in a barrel without water.
The hypocrisy is palatable, the irony is distasteful, and the lesson is dangerously evident. Based on the Judge’s order, Broward Health appears to be an organization that is run by an incompetent board of political hacks, accountable to no one – not the public, not the voters, not the taxpayers, not its customers, not the 8,000 plus employees, not even the Governor. The irony is that I was hoping for the Governor to win, knowing full well that in this case only – I felt the Governor’s actions were somewhat precipitous and not well thought out. See my article “David DiPietro’s Raw Deal”. I was hoping that, at the very least – the Board would be accountable to someone – even if it were only the Governor.
Even more infuriating, is the “vindication” DiPietro claimed in the judge’s order.
“I am pleased and gratified at the judge’s ruling,” Di Pietro said in a statement. “The order is vindication of my service at Broward Health … I am proud of my record of fighting corruption at Broward Health, and with my reinstatement, I intend to continue to champion multiple transparency and accountability reforms.” David DiPietro 4/11/16 Sun Sentinel
Notwithstanding the fact that DiPietro was correct to object to the most recent secret meeting on the dual issues of the performance of their corporate counsel and well-known corruption investigator Mr. Wayne Black’s allegation of administrative obstruction, David has been a willing participant in many secret meetings at Broward Health. These secret meetings include among others, the highly controversial meetings on the Zimmerman Advertising proposals wherein David had no objection and was reportedly a strong proponent. In his report, Even Mr. Berger (the attorney hired by the Board to do a limited internal investigation on behalf of the Board’s Audit committee), concluded that the Zimmerman meeting should not have been held behind closed doors in secret. It appears that Mr. DiPietro only objects when his personal/political agenda dictates and not, as he would have us believe, when the public interests are at issue.
Not only has DiPietro not fought corruption, nor championed either transparency or accountability from his position as Chair of the Board – his orchestration of some of the most incompetent Board decisions has made his board and his tenure one of the worst, incompetent if not corrupt Boards in Broward Health’s sordid history. And that is saying something! It is not accidental nor an overstatement to hold him personally responsible for much of the dire straits in which Broward Health now finds itself. I have spent a great many words on this and related topics in this blog, and I will not repeat them here. Please see a short list of my past articles (“Dan Lewis’ Original Posts“– found on the lower right of the home page.)
I have to admit that I like David DiPietro, and I think he is a good attorney – but I hate the job he is doing as a Broward Health Board Member, particularly as its chair. So it is appropriate to look at the politics of the matter which are really quite interesting.
From the time of his original appointment to the Board by Governor Rick Scott in 2011 until mid-2014 when Governor Scott appointed additional board members to support DiPietro, David generally was on the short end of a 5-2 vote. Governor Scott made his new appointments primarily on the recommendation of a rather small group of insider Broward republicans – including, of course, one of DiPietro’s best friend Broward County Commissioner Chip LeMarca who quite coincidentally later was able to parlay a failed construction background into a high paying community relations position with – wait for it … Zimmerman Advertising.
Notably in light of his strong recent support of the Zimmerman Advertising contract, one of DiPietro’s past 5-2 lost votes was to oppose the advertising expenditure for the re-branding of the systems individual hospitals in favor of a unified brand “Broward Health” hospital. At that time, he did not feel that Broward Health money should be spent in advertising.
Back then, this same group of insider Broward republicans together with David helped to orchestrate the appointment of David’s wife, Nina to Florida’s Medical Board currently chaired by none other than Dr. Nabil El Sanadi. Small world!
It was now clear in Broward’s hushed circles of political power that David DiPietro was the go-to person for any appointments by Governor Rick Scott in Broward including; the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 17th Judicial Circuit (JNC) and the Broward Health Board.
And so, three new Broward Health Board appointments gave DiPietro a majority (Rodriquez, Nieland and Wright).
With the help of the three new Scott appointments to the Board handpicked by David DiPietro, he now had a majority. In short order, David was elected chair and with the threat of his new majority, ousted not only past CEO Frank Nask, but also corporate counsel Sam Goren and the marketing department headed by Sara Howley (which would pave the way for the Zimmerman contract that had already been approved by new CEO Dr. El Sanadi). (See my articles: Innovative CEO NASK Forced Out, Politics Wins – We Loose!, Board of Commissioners Rubber Stamp Shady Deals at Meeting – Very Tacky). After all, Dr. El Sanadi could be relied upon to play ball in return for a sweetheart contract (please see my previous posts “The Best Broward Health CEO contract politics can buy!”, and “Has the Office of Inspector General seen Dr. El Sanadi’s CEO Contract with Broward Health?”).
And so, new appointments on the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), now chaired by the son of a prominent cardiac surgeon and significant Republican contributor and fundraiser, Dr. Zachariah Zachariah. During this time frame, Dr. El Sanadi – in secret, purchased Dr. Zachariah’s medical practice on behalf of Broward Health in a multi-million-dollar deal currently under some intense regulatory review. This deal could not have been done without the approval of DiPietro. Coincidentally, the very same JNC chaired by the young Zachariah and other DiPietro recommended appointments, sent Nina DiPietro, David’s wife, name to the Governor for a judicial appointment!
In what had been panned as Florida’s most inexperienced judicial appointment ever, once again, as he had done so often before, the Governor accommodated David DiPietro with his wife’s appointment to the Broward County Bench.
Judge Nina DiPietro now has to stand for election in Broward on August 30th, 2016, a republican Scott appointee in a democratic Broward County. It would take money, and lots of it. No problem for David DiPietro. As of today, she is currently running unopposed and has raised more money than any other Broward judicial candidate through mid-March with $267,000.
A quarter of her donations through January came from health care-related sources. Zimmerman and his collection of companies gave Nina’s campaign approximately $50,000. Broward Health vendors and physician contractors ponied up another $100,000. Then David made up another $100,000 in loans made possible by the explosive growth of his law practice during his Broward Health tenure – and they say this position does not pay!
Judge Nina DiPietro, however, was not always running unopposed. For a brief time, she had an opponent – then, inexplicitly, her opponent switched to a different judicial race and according to people he apparently told, Zimmerman was helping design his campaign material. Wow, small world.
All this success for David DiPietro primarily due to the Governor’s largess makes his lawsuit and his public statements against his benefactor baffling.
If David had asked me, and he did not, I would have advised him to tell the governor that because of the Governor’s commitment to serve the public; his actions were understandable but miss-informed. David should have said that he stands ready to serve as soon as the Governor can confirm he was misinformed and re-instates him. Instead, in a very public way – David called the Governor out, embarrassed his office and went to court with an action that now serves to undermine the Governor’s office, authority and reputation. As a lifelong Democrat, politically – I am delighted. However, right, wrong or indifferent – it was the wrong political move. Loyalty is an important part of politics and I would have advised David to stand by his Governor, his benefactor. If I were in David’s position, that is what I would have done, even as a Democrat.
The Governor must be thinking a lot about the word “ingrate”; n. “ungrateful person,” 1670s, from earlier adjective meaning “unfriendly”(late 14c.) also “ungrateful, unthankful,” from Latin ingratus “unpleasant,” also “ungrateful,” from in- “not” (see in- (1)) + gratus “pleasing, beloved, dear, agreeable” (see grace ). The noun meaning “ungrateful person” dates from 1670s.
It’s fair to say that David’s relationship with the Governor’s office has been irreparably broken as has is close circle of friends. As a vocal Trump supporter, now David can only dream of a Trump presidency.