Sun-Sentinel by David Fleshler
January 17, 2019
Several Broward Health defendants rejected plea offers Thursday, leading a judge to set a date for trial on criminal charges of violating Florida’s open-meetings law.
At a hearing in Fort Lauderdale, lawyers for four of the five defendants said their clients planned or were likely to turn down a proposal from prosecutors that would have reduced the charges to one or two non-criminal infractions, with $500 fines for each, plus prosecution costs.
The defendants, which include three former board members, a current board member and the former general counsel, have insisted from the start that they did nothing wrong. They had been indicted by a Broward grand jury on charges of violating the state’s open-meeting law for a series of one-on-one meetings that led to a vote to fire a previous chief executive on kickback charges that have never been proved.
Roberto Martinez, attorney for former general counsel Lynn Barrett, has filed a motion to dismiss the charges, contending that she was not covered by the law since she’s just a staffer, not a commissioner. And the motion said no laws had been broken either way because no one had served as a conduit for information from one board member to another.
Broward County Judge Christopher Pole set a trial date of April 9. But he asked both sides to consider mediation, and they agreed to explore the idea.
The trial would be a non-jury trial, also known as a bench trial, in which the judge alone would render the verdict.