COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night’s Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board (LSHA) meeting was notable for what it didn’t do, rather than what it did. In clear violation of Florida law, Hospital Authority Manager, Jackson P. “Jack” Berry, stopped posting the Authority Board meeting agendas on the Authority website. Last night was no different. Keeping residents in the dark is nothing new for Jack Berry and Governor Scott’s Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board.
The recent 1st District Court of Appeals opinion upholding the lower court decision that Mr. Berry and the Authority were not complying with the Florida public records law was nowhere to be found on the agenda and not a word was mentioned during the meeting. However, after the meeting, Board Chair and Gov. Scott appointee Loretta Chancy blew off the three-judge unanimous 1st DCA opinion with a quip and a shrug.
Beginning in June, 2015, in clear violation of the Florida law, Hospital Authority Manager, Jackson P. “Jack” Berry, stopped posting the Authority Board meeting agendas on the Authority website.
The law in relevant part states:
An agenda shall be prepared by the agency in time to ensure that a copy of the agenda may be received at least 7 days before the event by any person in the state… The agenda, along with any meeting materials available in electronic form excluding confidential and exempt information, shall be published on the agency’s website…
Much of the meeting material produced by the Authority is available in electronic form. Other than the minutes and a so-called “Consent Meeting Agenda” Mr. Berry posted no other meeting material on the website prior to June.
The Agenda and Senate Bill 50 (SB50)
Scott’s Hand Picked Board Mocks the Law
SB50 gives the public the right to comment on agenda items before a public body, such as a county commission, or the Lake Shore Hosp. Auth. Board votes on an item.
Last night’s agenda, which was finally made available at the meeting, had three items which fell under the SB50 rule. The items, presented without any information available to the public, were described in such a vague manner as to make intelligent comment impossible and made a mockery of the law.
Public Records Court Case – Ignored
The Authority’s recent loss of a public records law suit in the 1st District Court of Appeals was ignored by Manager Berry and the Authority Board. (See: LSHA’s Berry Must Comply With Public Records Law: 1st DCA Upholds Lower Court Decision)
It never made it onto the agenda. However, some information about the Berry/Authority defeat was included in the Board’s secret agenda packet.
As she was leaving the meeting, Board member Janet Creel responded to a question from Barbara Lemley, who asked Ms. Creel if she knew the Authority had lost the appeal. According to Ms. Lemley, Ms. Creel responded, “Yes. It was in the packet.”
Also, after the meeting, your reporter asked Chairperson Loretta Chancy about the lawsuit. “Did you hear that you lost the lawsuit in the Court of Appeals?”
Ms. Chancy responded, “I lost?”
Your reporter replied, “Yes. Did anybody tell you that? The Hospital Authority lost. You guys were in violation of the public records law.”
Ms. Chancy was silent.
Your reporter repeated, “Did anybody tell you?”
Ms. Chancy, made like she was balancing something in each hand, similar to Lady Justice and the scales of justice, replied, “Legal law is not always tilted the right way.”