Be afraid, be very afraid!

A Recent Broward Health Board Meeting

As seen in the City News, a group of 10 neighborhood newsletters that go to about 60,000 affluent homeowners in, and around, Ft. Lauderdale, Wilton Manors and Oakland Park each month. Author Dan Lewis’ articles are regularly published in the City News publications. Contact them at citynews@bellsouth.net or call (954) 564-1308.

The Broward Health chairperson begins the board meeting in broken English with a call to order, followed by an unintelligible instruction to call the roll: Chair Rocky Rodreguez, “here”; Vice-Chair Christopher Ure, “here”; Beverly Capasso, “here”; Linda Robinson, “here”. So, begins the meeting in a nondescript room at the unimpressive west-central “Spectrum” headquarters of the 2+ billion-dollar tax-supported safety-net hospital system responsible for the healthcare of the majority of Broward County.

By law, there are supposed to be 7 board members for Broward Health, all appointed by the Governor. But for more than a year the Governor has not appointed members to fill all the board vacancies. Recently, after one Board Member refused to be re-appointed, and another resigned because of alleged misconduct by her fellow Board Members, the board only has 4 active members – the exact number required for a quorum to conduct the business of the 2+ billion-dollar health-care enterprise.

Rocky Rodriquez
Rocky Rodriquez
Linda Robison
Linda Robison
Beverly Capasso
Beverly Capasso
Christopher Ure
Christopher Ure

Because the number of board members equals the board quorum requirement, depending on whose legal opinion the board chooses to follow – either the board requires a unanimous vote (a majority of the Board legal argument), or three of the four active members to vote (a majority of the quorum legal argument) for an agenda item for approval. Remarkably, the board’s legal counsel advised that on a particular agenda item where one board member recused themselves due to a conflict (an all too common occurrence), only 2 out of the remaining 3 votes would be required to approve the item. Not surprisingly,  no experienced or past Broward Health legal counsel agrees with this board’s legal counsel’s advice here. Consider the ramifications of a hypothetical agenda item to privatize the system where one ethical board member wisely recuses themselves. According to the current board counsel, only 2 affirmative votes would be required to flush the system down the toilette.

The Governor needs to do all that he can do to appoint members to fill all the vacancies on the Broward Health Board. The voting uncertainty alone argues for urgency.

But I digress, back to the meeting.

The meeting room is filled with senior and mid-level staff, district employees and physicians who have come to watch the board spectacle but have little other purpose in attending. Each has way better things to do, but here they are anyway. By my count, the only other people at the meeting are a few vendors interested in specific agenda items, some low-level employees who have rightly been singled out for monthly honors, and, of course, John DeGroot – a self-styled curmudgeon who should have listened to the advice “Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt”.  Unfortunately for John, there is little doubt left.

I bring up Degroot because what happens next illustrates the point that even the relatively simple task of managing public comment appears to be beyond the abilities of this Board.

The Chair calls for “Public Comment” (an agenda item that gives anyone the opportunity to address the board on any relevant matter) and DeGroot swaggers to the podium, as if fulfilling some anointed obligation to harangue the board. A security guard quietly takes his post about 20 feet back. Degroot begins, as he usually does, with a factually unsupported assumption to which no one agrees, and then demands that a particular board member give a response to an angry question born out of an unhappy life.

meeting cartoon

What happens next, or rather what doesn’t happen next is the point. Silence. Silence, while board members check their phones for calls, emails, texts – and waits, the chair shuffles, uneasy in his seat and waits – refusing to look up. Degroot waits in silence holding the podium hostage. And waits, and waits. Finally, I could take it no longer, I said out loud what everyone in the room was thinking “Are we waiting for the 3 Minutes to expire? This is ridiculous!”. The Chairman looked up and I shrugged my shoulders and used my best hand gestures to signal “WTF”. Thankfully, just then, the very able Maryanne Wing – clerk to the board, announced that 3 minutes had expired and Degroot sat down with his pyric victory and petulant smirk!

The context to this incident is this. There is typically a 3-minute rule for public comments at most public meetings, and Broward Health is no exception. Except, the 3 minutes is not a grant of time. Rather the 3 minutes is a limit. In addition, well run meetings prohibit the back and forth debate between the public and board members as a slippery slope to meeting chaos. Again, Broward Health meetings are no exception. Degroot knew full well that meeting decorum rules prohibit any conversation or response to his question by the Board.

Here’s what should have happened, but didn’t. After Degroot asked his absurd question – the Chair should have immediately reminded him that the board would not respond, and ask if there were anything else – and if not, instruct him to take his seat or be removed.

I use this incident as a microcosm illustrating a fundamental problem at Broward Health with its current 4-member board. The board doesn’t understand the basics of why they’re there, what they’re doing, or who’s interests they represent.

Another example in this same meeting, was the item addressing the suspension of the CEO search efforts. Here’s what happened. At a Board Member’s recommendation and after paying more than $300,000 to recruit a new CEO to replace more than a year of “interim” CEO’s, and after interviews culled the candidate list to 2the board abruptly cancelled their CEO replacement activities to hire, instead,  a management company to tell them (the board) what, if anything, is wrong with the management organization at Broward Health.  Likely, after spending hundreds of thousands more of our tax dollars – the management company will report what everyone knows, that the root of the management problems at Broward Health is the board itself.

By common sense, relevant Florida Statutes, Broward Health’s charter, and specific prohibitions – the Broward Health board is not to interfere with the management or operations of the health system. The board’s job is to make policy, and supervise the CEO, Corporate Counsel as well as a compliance officer – not manage Broward Health!

It is specifically the CEO’s job to manage the organization (please see every text book about the function of CEO’s versus its Boards!).

Here’s what should have happened. The board should hire a CEO, give that CEO the support necessary to address all the management issues of the District. The board should remove itself from any involvement in the hiring and firing of district employees. The Board should support the CEO if he or she believes that he or she should hire a management company for areas in which the CEO may designates and that management company, if hired, should be responsive to the CEO – not the Board.

Instead, the board using a board member’s convoluted argument hired a management company to advise “the board” on the management of Broward Health. This advice demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about a public organization, its management, processes, functions, or this member’s role as a public fiduciary. What is both disappointing and a little unnerving is that the resume of this board member asserts his experience as a management consultant and wealth manager. Based on his Board actions, he’s the consultant who borrows your watch to tell you the time.

self-inflicted-woundThe current 4-member board doesn’t understand the basics of why they’re there, what they’re doing, or who’s interests they represent.

The active board members are a realtor, and insurance salesman, a nurse and a lawyer connected with a local lobbying firm known for its government practice.  Most observers and those “in the know” believe this board is being bullied by an out-of-control corporate counsel who’s conduct appears to be remarkably self-serving and designed to strengthen her political control of the organization. Supporting this group of misfits is the weakest senior staff in the history of Broward Health due to the ill-conceived political “purges” begun under the chairmanship of disgraced David DiPietro and continuing under CEO Dr. El Sanadi (who, you recall, committed suicide while under a cloud of investigations). (You can read my many articles published at the time – see the archives ). This menagerie is running a 2+-billion-dollar healthcare enterprise into the ground with (and I’m being charitable here) their best intentions.

A conspiracy type would consider all this through the lens of deliberate destabilization for the purpose of satisfying the Governor’s stated intentions to privatize public hospitals in Florida. Publicity shy, consummate lobbyist, Broward resident and close friend of the Governor – “Billy” Rubin’s name is often mentioned as the puppet-master.

I know and have great respect for Rubin and his abilities. While he certainly has clients with interest in Broward Health, I am not convinced by the conspiracy arguments or Rubin’s alleged part in that scenario. So what is driving this train wreck?

After going to the last few meetings, I am struck by the overt incompetence of the board and their complete failure to understand their role in the governance of Broward Health. I think the damage is largely self-inflicted.

Pick your cliché: deliberate destabilization, paralysis by analysis, stagnation by allegation – each is apropos and from any perspective, Broward Health’s Board conduct and actions seem to defy reasonable explanations and is an embarrassment to every taxpayer in its district.

The problem is most acute in the system’s governance – the Board, it’s hires and senior staff. Less problematic are thankfully the thousands of health care workers who daily deliver high quality service to the community. But the organization, at its most granular critical levels are not immune from the irresponsibility of the board and senior management. The longer that the board dysfunction and the Governor’s failure to appoint qualified people to a full board continues, the more avoidable and inexcusable damage will be done to the organization and Broward’s healthcare needs.

Federal, state officials conduct site visits at Broward Health

TALLAHASSEE-Federal and state government officials and attorneys who are part of an independent review organization are are at the North Broward Hospital District’s corporate offices today reviewing contracts and interviewing staff at the beleaguered health system that last year inked a $70 million agreement to settle allegations of health care fraud.

Source: Federal, state officials conduct site visits at Broward Health

Anonymous Letter to the Broward Health Board.

The following letter was received from an anonymous source and I thought that I would pass it along in it’s entirety as an article.

I want to remind all the readers of this blog – that the mission here has always been and will continue to be an effort to make Broward Health the finest public hospital system in the country.  To that end, fast talking & slick dealing whether lawful or merely ethical breaches must be stopped and exposed.  It is an embarrassment to the fine men and women comprising the nearly 8,000 employees of the system.

Thank you to the anonymous writer of this letter.  I quote without comment:

“To the Commissioners of the North Broward Hospital District

I urge you to read the following in its entirety. I implore you to honor your responsibility in performing appropriate oversight and making reasonable inquiry into the allegations contained in this letter.

I must relay this message anonymously, due to the increasing culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation at Broward Health. Despite what you may have heard, Broward Health’s “anonymous” internal reporting system is anything but. I will explain in more detail below. 

I assure you that I am not writing for political, personal or private gain. My sole purpose is to put you on notice, and create a record of impropriety and unethical behavior that has yet to be addressed in any meaningful way. Your lack of action has encouraged this behavior. 

The most egregious occurrence took place after the Board Meeting of 04/27/16. I cannot wait until the next meeting to speak. I cannot participate in betraying the trust of the entire workforce and the taxpaying public.

  1. The General Counsel is permitted to engage in deceptive behavior and is collecting all “anonymous” employee complaints and reports

Before discussing the issue at hand, please review the below Broward Health Policy, created by General Counsel with assistance of External Counsel (Foley & Lardner):

Broward Health Policy GA-004-242 – Response and Prevention of Offenses – Sections D.7 and E.7 state:
“No Broward Health Workforce Member, with the exception of the General Counsel or his or her designee, or any person or entity retained by Broward Health to assist it in conducting a Preliminary Review or Focused Investigation will engage in any deceptive or pre-textual conduct”.

Compare this with the Florida Bar’s Rulesof Professional Conduct 4-8.4 (c), which states:

“A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, except that it shall not be professional misconduct for a lawyer for a criminal law enforcement agency or regulatory agency to advise others about or to supervise another in an undercover investigation, unless prohibited by law or rule, and it shall not be professional misconduct for a lawyer employed in a capacity other than as a lawyer by a criminal law enforcement agency or regulatory agency to participate in an undercover investigation, unless prohibited by law or rule”.

Policy GA-004-242, drafted at least partially by the General Counsel, allows her to engage in deceptive conduct, despite the Florida Bar’s prohibition to the contrary. 

You may ask yourself, why would “any person or entity retained by Broward Health to assist in conducting a Preliminary Review of Focused Investigation” be allowed to engage in deceptive conduct, if their goal is truth-finding? That’s a good question. 

Under El-Sanadi’s leadership, the role of General Counsel was greatly expanded, and many other departments were re-aligned off the record to be subordinate to her office. As before, you may ask yourself, why would the employee (the General Counsel, due to her expanded oversight) be allowed to engage in deceptive conduct? There is no good answer. 

This has allowed the General Counsel’s power to expand without any meaningful oversight, after all, she is allowed to engage in deceptive conduct. Many wasteful, inefficient and even unethical policies, procedures and processes have been created and implemented since.

  1. Deceptive CIA Compliance under the General Counsel

The Management Certification and Sub-Certification Process (the “Process”) is required by the Corporate Integrity Agreement (“CIA”), which impacts 100 employees. The Process is a way of having employees attest that their area of responsibility is in compliance with policies, procedures, and laws. The forms used as part of the Process were changed by the General Counsel and Foley & Lardner to literally remove the ability of the attesting employee to certify that their area of responsibility was not in compliance. This was done intentionally- meetings occurred with Dr. El Sanadi, General Counsel, and Foley & Lardner to discuss the need for “clean certifications”- meaning not only that there was no way to indicate that the employee’s area was not in compliance, but also no way for the employee to hand-write in further details regarding their area’s compliance. Further, instruction was given by General Counsel and Foley & Lardner to remove written examples of compliance issues for employees to report, leaving the workforce in a position to blindly guess over which sorts of problems should have been reported in the first place. The General Counsel, who is allowed to be deceptive, has now created a shadow over any employee who wants to accurately fill out their Process forms. 

This has created endless red tape, and has turned what was supposed to be a regulated compliance process into another egregious example of misconduct. 

What will happen when the CIA annual reporting period ends and employees are required to provide the annual Management Certification? Questions will arise as to why were they certifying compliance on a monthly basis (due to the ethically massaged forms discussed above) but cannot provide an annual certification, due to the lack of the ability to state that they’re not in compliance. Could one reasonably say these monthly certifications were crafted to be deceptive by the employee who is empowered to engage in deceptive conduct? The CIA has stipulated penalties of $50,000 per occurrence of a falsified Management Certification. I urge you to ask employees what they think of this process and prepare for what will happen in six months.
Why else is it important for employees to have the ability to say, “no, I cannot certify” that they are in compliance and be allowed to provide an explanation?

On or about December 31, 2015, Bob Martin, Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”), was asked to complete the CFO Certification. The CFO Certification included an attestation that Unallowable Costs related to legal fees in defending Broward Health in United States of America ex rel. Michael Reilly, M.D. vs. North Broward Hospital District were removed from the Cost Report. Although the action of removing Unallowable Costs had to be performed within 90 days according to the Settlement Agreement, the CFO Certification was not required to be signed until the First Annual Report was due later in 2016 per the CIA (page 28). Upon being asked to complete the CFO Certification, Mr. Martin specifically asked that his CFO Certification form be revised to include the ability to say “no” regarding compliance. Mr. Martin was explained that under the direction of General Counsel and Foley & Lardner, the lack of ability to say “no” or to include reasons why were removed from various CIA certification forms. Mr. Martin then asked for the form to be changed, so that he could certify (with regard to whether he was in compliance) to say, “yes, with exceptions”. Did Mr. Martin have something important to convey?

Below is Mr. Martin’s attestation that Unallowable Costs were removed from the Cost Report.

Yes, with the following exceptions:

“This Certification only covers the period up to and including December 31, 2015. Based on advice and direction from Broward Health’s Internal General Counsel, Only External costs were to be considered non-allowable and removed from the Cost Reports. All Internal Costs were considered allowable and were not removed from the Cost Reports. Also, due to lack of adequate record keeping by Broward Health’s previous External General Counsel Firm, an estimate of 20% was used to determine the portion of the Firm’s fees from 2011 through 2015 that were considered non-allowable (as defined in the Settlement Agreement) based on the advice and direction from Broward Health’s Internal General Counsel.”

Why could Mr. Martin not simply state, “Yes – the requirement was met”? Was there doubt in guidance given by General Counsel (who is allowed to be deceptive)? Did the Office of Inspector General and Department of Justice intend on an estimate being calculated rather than precise accounting practices? Do we have documentation that this estimate was appropriate and met our CIA obligation? Mr. Martin’s certification sounds unsure. Mr. Martin was terminated soon thereafter.

III. Aggressive Threats toward Medical Staff

There were Board Meetings spent discussing physicians not signing the initial Code of Conduct and hospital Policies. Any layman can read pages 8-9 of the CIA and see that the requirement actually mandated distribution of the Code and Policies to all Covered Persons (which included physicians), not signatures. Other organizations with the exact same CIA language have done just that – distributed and succeeded – without damaging their reputation with the medical staff. How much time, staff hours and money was wasted conducting witch hunts and putting doctors on trial at Board Meetings with threats of medical staff revocation because of a signature requirement that was unnecessary? This is one of many overzealous, wasteful responses to what should have been an easy implementation with appropriate foresight and interpretation. Who made the decision to carry out such a simple requirement in this manner while spending millions of dollars on legal advice that was at best, inefficient, and at worst, misinterpretation – all unmonitored and unquestioned?

IV.

Finally, there is the engagement of Baker Donelson, and the most recent development associated with them that necessitated writing this letter today. Broward Health was required per CIA (pages 40-42) to engage an Independent Review Organization (“IRO”) to perform a Systems and Transactions Review related to Focus Arrangements. The requirements regarding qualifications, responsibilities and independence/objectivity of the IRO are all listed on pages 40-42 of CIA, yet they have been ignored.

  1. General Counsel has stated that the IRO was unilaterally selected by Dr. El Sanadi – an all too common response and excuse these days for scenarios that should have involved legal guidance and/or review.
  2. Scott Newton of Baker Donelson expressed to a Broward Heath employee that he was actually contacted on his cell phone by Myla Reizen of Foley & Lardner, the law firm that Broward Health continues to pay unquestioned and unnecessary legal fees to. Ms. Reizen also has a prior relationship with General Counsel. How exactly was this IRO chosen? Are they truly independent? Are they allowed to be deceptive under the Broward Health policy discussed above?
  3. There is question as to whether Baker Donelson has the necessary experience and qualifications to be an IRO. Interviews and billable hours thus far have demonstrated lack of experience including the billing to Broward Health for tasks and work product that an IRO should already be knowledgeable in and possess. The IRO should not be charging Broward Health for a learning experience. Where is documentation of the due diligence for such an important obligation?
  4. Broward Health has already been charged in excess of $200,000 for work not substantive or related to an actual Systems or Transactions Review related to Focus Arrangements. In fact, a Systems and Transaction Review cannot even be performed yet according to the OIG monitor. What are we (and the taxpayers) paying for? Are we being double or triple billed for attorney attendance at meeting and interviews? Are we paying for necessary services? Do charges billed line up with the contractual scope of representation?
  5. One employee interview with Baker Donelson (that I have personal knowledge of) went completely off scope including a line of questioning regarding personal relationships between executives. There is no reason for an outside, supposedly independent organization to be asking these questions unless they are being instructed by other Broward Health employees to do so. There would have been no knowledge on the part of Baker Donelson to ask these questions unless prompted by other Broward Health employees. The interview that occurred with Baker Donelson immediately prior to this occurrence of inappropriate questioning was that of the General Counsel. Is the General Counsel and the IRO using their ability to be deceptive to ferret out dissent? Are we paying vendors to perform a witch hunt? Does this sound like an independent review?
  6. As a result of the runaway billing (outside course and scope), an estimate of hours and expenses was requested from Baker Donelson by the Corporate Compliance Department to keep expenses reasonable. Soon after this request, Baker Donelson requested to be transferred under and report to the General Counsel’s office citing inference. Does this re-alignment under the oversight of General Counsel allow them to be deceptive?
  7. MOST IMPORTANTLY: On May 4, 2016, Baker Donelson made a formal request to General Counsel to provide them with ALL documents relating to the Corporate Compliance Disclosure Logs, database, interviews, reports summaries, reporter identities, including all documents related to anonymous and confidential reports made by employees.Immediately after this request, General Counsel forwarded it to the Corporate Compliance Department with the expectation that this confidential document turnover occur immediately. Baker Donelson has not been retained to ferret out anonymous employee complaints. A Systems and Transaction Review related to Focus Arrangements DOES NOT include provision of confidential and anonymous reporting maintained in the Disclosure Log for the entire Broward Health workforce. This is a complete betrayal of (previously encouraged) employee confidentiality and trust. It is the right of every employee to know that this behavior would be encouraged on the watch of General Counsel. This action will chill the ability of any employee to anonymously report actual or suspected compliance issues without retaliation or improper provision of confidential information to undeserving third parties. This action WILL undermine the entire mechanism in which the workforce is expected to report actual or suspected issues. I will leave it to the reader to imagine what the true motive for this inappropriate attempt at accessing information was for. I will not stand by as a silent witness while this behavior occurs. This is unacceptable.

A formal complaint with documentation will be submitted to the OIG Monitor whom was previously assured the independence of Baker Donelson.

All employees have the right to know that this confidential reporting mechanism is in jeopardy. The anonymous complaints have been requested by persons inside and outside of Broward Health. All Certifying and Sub-Certifying employees have the right to know as they are included in these policies and processes and their employment is affected when these behaviors occur.

The appropriate next steps are not to figure out who is writing this e-mail, or how to retaliate against them. Communications from Kevin Fusco and Commissioner Di Pietro on 3/2/16 and Commissioner Rodriguez on 3/22/16 assure that retaliatory behavior is not condoned. Will the first steps be to identify and retaliate or will it be to address the actual message and demonstrate accountability?

The appropriate next steps are to make reasonably inquiry into these matters including:

  1. Review of Policy GA-004-242 and the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.
  2. Review of ownership and decisions made during CIA implementation including working documents for Management Certification changes and other tasks.
  3. Review of Mr. Martin’s Chief Financial Officer Certification history.
  4. Review of the relationship with Baker Donelson including initial engagement, scope of work, actual work performed, expenses paid, and the relation to actual scope of engagement versus attempted scope. Objective review of whether they are truly “independent.”
  5. Review of the attempt by General Counsel on May 4, 2016 to provide entire, non-redacted Disclosure Logs, confidential employee reports and allegations to Baker Donelson. 
  6. Review allegedunilateral decisions made by Dr. El Sanadi including contract awarding, personnel hiring, role and oversight and departmental shifting, without review or approval. 
  7. Review of collateral damage including costs of bad decisions, loss of morale and ineffective policies, procedures and processes initiated by General Counsel (that are not simply accounted for in budgeted or unbudgeted legal costs in excel spreadsheets)
  8. Review of the continued absence of legal guidance in areas where actually needed.
  9. Re-review of legal guidance given regarding appropriateness of Shade Sessions at Special Board Meetings. Contrary to Commissioner Ure’s recollection, actual meeting minutes reflect that General Counsel stated a Shade Session to discuss ongoing investigations was appropriate. Commissioner Di Pietro is the one that requested a separate legal opinion be received.

Unfortunately, this is just scratching the surface. You have been given the appropriate starting point. Willful ignorance and naivete are no longer an option.

We are nearing the end of the road where employees will bring issues to the Board internally. If this is not addressed with swift and immediate action from the top down by the responsible governing body, this information will be handled from the bottom up. Further absence of appropriate oversight and inquiry can only be considered wanton disregard. Further absence of appropriate oversight and inquiry will leave no choice but for employees to communicate with any agency or stakeholder with whom Broward Health does business or is expected to provide outcomes to that will listen to their complaints, including but not limited to: Officer of Inspector General, Department of Justice, Officer of Inspector General Monitor, Laura Elis, Florida Bar, Agency for Health Care Administration, Joint Commission, State Attorney’s office, citizens, all employees, television stations, newspapers, bloggers, Health Care Compliance Associate, Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, qui tam attorneys, employment attorneys and other healthcare organizations in Florida. 

Others have stood and spoke at Board Meetings, stating that this corporate chaos has not affected healthcare services that we provide – I respectfully disagree. The continuum of healthcare includes all employees and departments within Broward Health. When one department struggles or fails, it will directly or indirectly impact all others. When one department cannot hire FTEs, has to flex down staffing or cannot order supplies as the result of corporate waste, it will directly or indirectly impact others. It may not be immediately apparent or easily measureable, but these behaviors including conflict of interest, lack of accountability and policy supported deception absolutely impact the overall function of this organization and services that we provide.

I urge all employees and the Board to ask questions and demand answers. Attend Board Meetings and demand answers as to why this is allowed at the corporate level. Demand answers as to why this is not addressed with the supposed transparency that is verbally touted at Board Meetings. Demand answers as to why a direct report to the Board is not held to the same standard as other Broward Health employees.

The mission of Broward Health is to provide quality health care to the people we serve and support the needs of all physicians and employees.”

Messy Divorce of Rick Scott and David DiPietro

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.

'They're nice, but do you really expect me to drink my imported Merlot from domestic Merlot glasses?'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  

Shhhh its a secretNotwithstanding 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 HealthThese 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.

NotASecretAnymoreNot 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.)

Politics

David-Di-PietroI 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.

Govenor ScottFrom 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 SanadiSmall 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).  

Go Back We Fucked Everything UpWith 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 Sanadiin 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.

MoneyMoneyJudge 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.

vvGZZguIf 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.