Sun Sentinel Editorial
December 16, 2017
If everything was on the up and up, as their lawyers insist, why did board members at Broward Health secretly meet at a hotel, a restaurant and over the phone with attorneys dishing dirt on their interim CEO?
And why, if everything was above snuff, did they act as though they’d never met the Alabama lawyer whose report at an impromptu board meeting led them to suddenly fire CEO Pauline Grant?
And why, with a Broward County grand jury having indicted two sitting board members (and others) for breaking the Sunshine Law on public meetings, are they still in office?
Florida governors typically suspend public officials who face criminal charges related to their public duties, until they’ve had their day in court.
But not Gov. Rick Scott.
In fact, Gov. Scott refuses to address the indictments handed down Tuesday by 12 Broward citizens, serving as grand jurors, who found probable cause to believe that five Broward Health officials violated the Sunshine Law in the walk-up to Grant’s dismissal last December.
“We’re reviewing it,” a governor’s spokeswoman said of the indictment that accuses board chairman Rocky Rodriguez, interim CEO Beverly Capasso, general counsel Lynn Barrett, board member Christopher Ure and former board member Linda Robison of conspiring to violate the state’s open-meetings law.
Up the road in Martin County, the governor is doing the same thing.
About three weeks ago, two Martin County commissioners were charged with breaking the public records law by failing to disclose emails about public business. Earlier this year, the commission paid $500,000 — in taxpayer funds — to settle a lawsuit that alleged the county destroyed, altered and delayed producing public records about a rock mine, reports Treasure Coast Newspapers.
“Our office will review it,” the governor’s spokeswoman told their reporter.
What’s the hold up?
You’d think Gov. Scott would have learned lessons from his run-ins with the laws on public records and open meetings.
Two years ago, Gov. Scott spent $700,000 in taxpayer money to settle lawsuits alleging he and several staff members created personal email accounts to hide their communications, in violation of state public records laws.
That same year, Gov. Scott and the Cabinet spent $55,000 in taxpayer money to settle a lawsuit accusing them of violating the open meetings law. In that case, Scott’s general counsel visited Gerald Bailey, the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and suggested that the governor and Cabinet wanted him gone. Problem was, no such thing had been discussed — let alone voted upon — at a public meeting.
Though Florida prides itself on its government-in-the-sunshine laws, the consequences for violating them are peanuts. The charges are misdemeanors. The fine is only $500. Other than ego or pride, violators have little to lose — aside from being suspended or removed from office.
Also, state attorneys are reluctant to pursue Sunshine Law violations, given their low-level status and the difficulty in proving them beyond a reasonable doubt. Last year, a group of University of Florida students surveyed every state attorney’s office in Florida and found virtually none pursuing such cases.
So kudos to Broward State Attorney Mike Satz for asking his public corruption unit to investigate the events of Dec. 3, 2016, when Broward Health’s board convened a spur-of-the-moment meeting to fire the interim CEO.
Those of us in the audience that day sat in shock. We wanted to hear what Grant had allegedly done wrong, but no one ever said. Not a single specific was offered. And not a single commissioner asked.
It was like they already knew. [READ MORE]