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Lobbyist rules? What rules? Broward Health fails to enforce own policy in another snafu

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward Health's never used lobbyist registration form

Broward Health’s never used lobbyist registration form

For more than a decade Broward Health has ignored its own rules, allowing lobbyists to operate freely behind the scenes as they seek to influence who gets tens of millions of dollars in contracts the hospital district awards every year.

Broward Health’s failure to enforce its own lobbyist registration policy is another management snafu by the billion-dollar public health system whose business practices are being probed by federal and state investigators.

One lobbyist who tried to register a year ago literally had to beg the system’s staff to enforce its own rules.

“I hounded them. Maybe there was something going on behind the scene they didn’t want known,” Seth Platt of Miami Beach-based LSN Partners recalled. Platt had a client in April 2015 seeking to provide free marketing services in exchange for product placements in the district’s four hospitals.

Platt eventually forced the hospital staff to allow him to attempt to register. A district lawyer sent him a copy of Broward Health’s five-page lobbyist policy passed by commissioners in 2004 with a registration form. He filled it out and sent it – he doesn’t recall to whom – but it apparently landed in the circular file. Broward Health has no record of it.

Broward Health Commission Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott in December 2013, was surprised when told the lobbyist registration had never been implemented.

Broward Health Chairman Rocky Rodriguez and Commissioner Sheela VanHoose

Broward Health Chairman Rocky Rodriguez and Commissioner Sheela VanHoose

“You assume these things are being taken care of. The board doesn’t get involved in operations,” Rodriguez said. “The public has a right to know who is lobbying the hospital district.”

Even more surprising is that Commissioner Sheela VanHoose serves on the board’s legal affairs committee that recently held workshops to establish a lobbying policy without being told by staff that a policy was already in place.

A waste of time

“We’ve spent two committee meetings talking about a lobbying policy and most of what we talked about is not relevant,” she said after being provided a copy of the policy. “It was a little shock to see.”

VanHoose said she wants to know why no registration process was ever established and will ask the administration to provide a list of registered lobbyists at the next regular board meeting on May 25.

“How did it happen and how do we prevent it from happening again? Those are the questions that we as board members need to answer,” said VanHoose.

Unlike city and county governments, hospital taxing districts like Broward Health are not required by law to register lobbyists or compel them to publicly disclose what they’re up to and who they represent.

Still, in a 2004 nod to protecting the “integrity” of the hospital district’s “governmental and contracting processes,” Broward Health’s board of commissioners adopted a five-page lobbying policy requiring both registration and disclosure, with sanctions for violators.

The policy remains in effect, but hospital district administrators never followed through to set up a registration process or even acknowledge on its website that such a policy exists. Not a single lobbyist has ever registered at Broward Health, district officials told FloridaBulldog.org.

Today, Broward Health is a lobbyists’ playground. The hospital district’s forlorn attempt to flush them from the shadows is all but forgotten.

Platt’s attempt to register was disclosed in an interview with Charlotte Mather-Taylor, Broward Health’s vice president for government relations. She said she was never instructed to set up a registration process and that when a frustrated Platt contacted her about registering, she referred him to the district’s lawyers, who sent him a copy of the lobbying policy and told him to call the CEO’s executive secretary.

“That was the last I heard about it,” said Mather-Taylor.

Platt told FloridaBulldog.org that after sending in his now-lost registration form, he pitched his client’s marketing proposal to Broward Health Senior Vice President Doris Peek and others, but nothing came of it. Instead a month later, in May 2015, the district signed a $2.1-million marketing deal with Fort Lauderdale’s Zimmerman Advertising that later morphed into a controversial proposal for a $71.4-million ad deal. The proposal withered following the Jan. 23 suicide of Broward Health CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi.

Gov. Rick Scott’s investment

Broward Health, the brand name of the North Broward Hospital District, has awarded many fat contracts during the years its lobbying policy was not enforced. Perhaps the fattest was an unprecedented 25-year, no-bid deal in 2012 that outsourced the public hospital system’s radiation oncology services to a Fort Myers-based cancer care company, 21st Century Oncology.

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott

FloridaBulldog.org reported in February that at the time of the deal Gov. Rick Scott had an indirect ownership interest in 21st Century Oncology via his $210,000 investment in Vestar Capital Partners, the private equity firm that owns 21st Century.

The governor’s office has said Scott had “no conversation or contact about Vestar Capital or 21st Century Oncology with the North Broward Hospital District.” Still, Scott’s good friend and confidant, Fort Lauderdale lobbyist William “Billy” Rubin, is known to have lobbied at Broward Health and counts 21st Century Oncology among his clients.

Rubin likewise represents two other companies that have lucrative contracts with Broward Health: Armor Correctional Health, the county jail’s in-house healthcare provider, and Emcare, which has a trio of contracts to provide emergency and urgent care services, obstetrical and gynecological care and pediatric care. Those two contracts and the one with 21st Century Oncology are worth tens of millions of dollars.

Rubin, however, is not registered to lobby at Broward Health.

Broward Health’s lobbying policy was approved in November 2004. It drew from state law to define who is considered a lobbyist and says “no person(s) may lobby the district or any of is board members, employees or agent until such person has registered as a lobbyist with the district’s Vice President/Corporate Services.”

A hitch: Broward Health has no Vice President/Corporate Services.

“That’s not a title that belongs to anybody I know,” said Rodriguez. “We have a lot of vice presidents. But nobody with that title.”

The policy requires lobbyists, in addition to identifying themselves, to disclose the nature of the business activity and any business or financial relationships they have with any Broward Health board member, employee or agent. Lobbyists must also submit an annual statement of each of their lobbying expenditures before the district in excess of $100. Violators can be precluded for lobbying at the district “for a period of time to be determined by the board” and their clients may be debarred.

In 2014, after Rodriguez complained about board members being swamped by “tons and tons of phone calls” from lawyers, doctors and others about contract negotiations, the board amended its policy to prohibit lobbying “during the consideration of any contracts.”

Missing from the updated policy was the original lobbyist registration form that lobbyists were supposed to use to disclose under oath information about themselves and their clients.

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Latest comments

  • Just another example of what happens when someone can “buy” an important political position. This Governor has never had the interests of Floridians in mind and his actions, or lack of them, speak much louder than his weak “canned” and repetitious statements .

  • Love how innocent Rodriguez and Van Hoose portray themselves, especially Rodriguez wh has been on the BOC for quite some time as all these lobbyists came pouring through. It’s a 360 degree failure, aka convenient oversight that will have lots of pointing fingers but no accountability. The game plays on.

  • Dan and Buddy when we will be seeing the viral email sent to the BOC regarding the continued incompetence and unethical behavior from the childish playing with fire general counsel?

  • It figures, there is hardly any accountability above the workers. The staff is held accountable for every rule and regulation major and minor. And will be reprimanded or fired for failure to follow even the bullshit minutiae that these assholes spew out. But god forbid they be held accountable. Like writing almost a million dollars in hush money checks, eh Kevin. Still have your job I see.

  • Yuuup is right, there is a travesty in the making. The Gen Counsel has been providing a revenue source for her friends and they will take no prisoners in the thirst for more and more legal billings.
    Fred Karlinsky had no problem throwing his republican allies under the bus to keep this money train running for his new firm Greenberg Traurig. He was also reported to have called the CEO and Chairman at the time when his exhorbinant rate was cut but a few bucks. The system was going broke and people were being fired, and he was concerned about one thing: Freddy Karlinsky’s world of private schools, watch collections and private jets (not to mention being a loyal sidekick to the famous Scott Rothstein). Remember folks, we are judged by the company we keep.
    Then there is Lynn’s pal at Foley Lardner. When DiPietro was Chairman he asked them why they need to send a $700/her lawyer down from Tallahassee or Jacksonville when they have a South Florida office. They never answered the question and I am sure the new Chairman (whose family is personally benefitting from the NBHD and the VP of Gov Rel) or the political climbing lobbyist from Charter Schools are asking these questions of Lynn Barrett. It’s up to the board to hold her feet to the fire, but unfortunately most of them are toasting marshmallow on that fire.
    The system is dying and these people are getting paid, but that’s OK, because that has always been the plan of the Governor and Little Billy Rubin, right? Destroy our public health system and buy it on the cheap, then make back all of the cash he spent buying the Governorship. In the end, the people lose and these greedy people get paid! Just sad…

  • Only so many times can I say to the good employees to get out of BH while you can; while decent opportunities still exist and before all doors close. Unless the Feds step in, this is a no win situation as our governor, his IG and AG are corrupt, and the BOC is doing their dirty work. Unless Scott is taken down by the Feds he has carte blanch. Period. End of sad disgusting story.

  • Here we go again.
    Follow the money.

    The “connected” lobbyiest are not going to register, they have a fast track through the legal department (LB) stright to the governors office. The board is the mouth piece and mucle of the governors office.

    News flash! The board is ultimately responsible for the actions of its employees. The false claims act clearly states ignorance is not a defense just because it worked to for RS does not mean that it will work for the BOC.

    If anybody needs to get out it would be the BOC who are not on the take and want nothing to do with the racketeering going on at BH.

    If you are a board memebr are reading this and dont know what is going on then “this means you.”

    Board members that need not play innocent : Ure, Rocky.
    Van Hoose, Canada and Guftason must step up to the plate and start questioning Legal and get the real picture not the rosie backdrop. Demand all the work that legal is sending out to friends,all the payment going to legal services from AP.

    Only then will your responsibility be absolved. Otherwise you’ll be just as guilty as Ure and Rocky. Sad to see good smart people be so blinded by loyalty.

    Remember what tricky Ricky did to DDP. you wont be spared. The GOP needs money for the superpaks and fall guys, scape goats. Your names are in the hat.

  • Don’t forget Robison, that new board mbr who is a health are mergers and aqisitions attny! Polished her horns are!

  • with all the corruption around Broward Health l who knows what little spooks are around you!
    Realtime in the trenches information direct to the OIG and other branches of the government

  • BOC meeting minutes are posted months after the actual meeting. Could someone here give us an update sooner? My job schedule keeps from attending the actual meetings

  • The disengagement by those in positions of responsibility is cultural and chronic. Want to have some fun, get the org chart and start Googling names, across all departments. The businesses and conflicts of interest many of those in positions of responsibility are involved in will cause your heads to spin. When you have 6 or 7 businesses that you are running with your family, that feed off of patient population you don’t have much time left to do the job you were hired for.

  • So Van Hoose has questions she plans to ask at the next meeting? And she isn’t allowed to ask before because that would violate some…law?

  • Stonewalling tactic.

  • Interesting development, Ronaldo Montman, VP of Information Services at Broward Health had been arrested and charged with # 1 Touch or stike/Battery/ Domestic Violence( Statute: 784.03-1a1 HG)

    http://florida.arrests.org/?county=3&agency=129

    These are the people that are running BH… shaking my head…

  • From what I hear Maestro, verbal abuse, intimidation and gross unprofessionalisim is rife at BH, …shaking my head also….one day it will all come out, in the mean time feel the pain of the people working there now

  • PATHETIC sun sent article re: boards all but one decision to retain attny Lynn Barrett with Ure citing her competence. I knew Ure, Van Loose as a Caboose, and Rocky the Racoon were up the governors butt. Now I know how often Barrett has been on her knees.

  • Now that the uproar has died down, and P Grant has taken credit for getting Broward Wealth back on track, it business as usual. The same underhanded bullshit. Lynn Barrett competent?, what the fuck! Last month she was a leper, an untouchable. Now she is good to go. You fucking assholes in upper management and the BOC need to go. Give the people in Broward a break . Give the poor employees a break. Get the fuck out of town and don’t come back. You only need to look south and see how how health care is done. Broward Wealth is a disgrace. I’m sick of the bullshit being piled higher and deeper. The more things change the more they remain the same. Fuck all y’all. Only hope the Feds can drop the hammer and send some of y’all to hell. Dicks

  • Whoot whoot. Shout out and kudos to BN for calling out the board and Lynn on their disgusting and illegal shenanigans . He left me speechless. Do you all need some aloe for the burn he just put upon you?
    Very brave noble caring and honest young man is he.
    Also thank you again commissioner Canada for being the voice of reason amongst the lying band of nit wits we tax payers have the displeasure of representing us. You go girl!

  • Bulldog. You need to investigate and post a fresh blog. BN is a brave, intelligent, and highly competent compliance officer. He is tenfold smarter than his boss, DL, who should be ashamed of herself for not presenting the facts herself, and instead putting the department manager on the hook. That said, I have tremendous knowledge re: the inner workings at BH. I know where major conflicts of interest exist. I know what clearly questionable actions certain BOC and executives have committed. Perhaps it is time to worry less if someone at BH will know who I am and instead begin to parse out some very dirty laundry.

  • I’m sorry. Not only is DF from the Sun S pathetic to write an entire article about a ridiculous yet hysterical mishap that occurred at the BH BOC meeting, but DF must assuredly be bowled over by a board of bullies since the REAL story, Dave, is NOT a whoopie cushion, but the intolerance and aggressive response of the BOC Rick Scott 3 stooges who called the police to arrest an old man for ridiculing them and nothing more. DeGroots ridicule pales in comparison to the undermining and most likely illegal acts this BOC is committing. THAT, Dave, is the story. Grow up or hand someone with a brain your pen!

  • PS. Thank you, Brian Nicholas, for your integrity and bravery. You are one terrific man, not like the scathingly amoral BOC, Barrett, and “C” suite. I’m sorry the residents of this community do not show up at BOC meetings, demand change, and support the good people like you at BH. Im sorry you work in such a slimy and unpalatable environment.

  • You are on the money AW. DF from Sun Sent even got the title of his article wrong as it is BH that fouls the air. Obviously the Sun Sent and DF have political ties to BH, not the people who buy their papers….the few left. And I also thank you, Brian N, for your courage and truthfulness!

  • Qui Tam
    Parse out some very dirty Laundry
    If you don’t I will
    There is HUGH retaliation at BH I am part of it, I will be fired, soon I will be placed on focused review, treated badly humiliated and ridiculed and then fired
    as for PG there is dirty laundry on her I have documentation and proof
    BN you have more integrity than all of the board and C suite and PG
    I sincerely hope the OIG FDLE come into BH and sort out some of these people, But please understand I don’t want HCA to take over this gift to the people of Broward We need NEW directors managers who are not corrupt
    MORE TO COME

  • If I were Rick Scott and the Fl IG, and if I was really looking for contracts that may have bypassed the required approval process, I might begin by looking at all historic and current orthopedic implant/device manufacturer contracts. I might also look at usage patterns of the surgeons, and compare product usage to financial relationships some surgeons may have with these device manufacturers, and I might look back for written disclose to all patients as applicable by law.

  • I might also look at security contracts. More to come.

  • One (? former) cardiology medical director who works at BHMC and wears his gym workouts with obvious pride told the Feds that he thought he fulfilled the responsibilities of his paid medical directorship, income and oversight of the quality of care within that division that was reimbursed in addition to his employment salary that was also under investigation by the Feds for fair market value, by going to the gym. The GYM? I’m with you QT. It is time to lay it out for the people. And I would absolutely look at security contracts, and the relationship of foundation board members with BH. Did one board member who is an officer with office furnishing company get to furnish the new Corp HQ w/o knowledge stating a distributor might have landed that contract mysteriously around the same time she joined the board? If so, would love to do price comparison to see what she donated for charity v how much the ticket was for that job

  • For those of you who were in attendance at the last BOD meeting hurray Brian. You have more integrity than the entire BOD. Notice Ure wants to change the minutes from the compliance meeting. He is a liar all the way thru and Rodriguez can’t run a board meeting the idiot he is. VanHoose open your eyes to what is really happening with Lynn Barret and her team. Canada was the only commissioner who spoke up and had concerns about what Brian had to say. The rest of you open your eyes before it is too late. Stop worrying about who wrote the email look into the accusations. The employees of BH are begging all of you to do the right thing.

  • Over it. Van Loose as a Caboose was Rick Scott’s personal assistant. Asking her, Ure and the Racoon to help the employees is like asking Hanibal Lechter to become vegan!

  • Each day I go to work at Broward health, each day I feel the strain of working in a corrupt and non supportive hospital. Hearing about our legal team, our ethics officer complaining, an e mail where instead of looking at content they try to find the person to persecute, we work short every day there are no true leaders, we have a politician as a President/CEO, and hear that the Governor want to sell off our hospitals to private enterprise
    Don’t think this does not have an effect on us, and don’t mention HR as a helper, I also tried to talk to EAP I was told a few weeks ago we can not see you until Thursday, that was Monday.
    Broward Health this is humiliating to us, as well as all this we deal with abusive doctors every day,
    So Broward I work in a Hostile non supportive highly corrupt work environment, WE NEED A UNION NOW, SEIU SHOULD BE LOOKING HARD HERE TO HELP

  • I agree with Fishing Guy. If there was ever a right time to organize BH employees, this is it. SEIU, where are you?

  • We need a union
    I am not even sure what some departments actually do
    For instance Disaster Preparedness, isn’t there a county wide EOC? There is no department like this in other hospitals, total waste of time, could be probably 4 extra staff for my unit
    yes SEIU where are you ?

  • BH is a corrupted place to work. Toxic environment and rude manager and you get treated like trash. I am so happy I left, BH is still doing Medicare and Medicaid Fraud I have documents to proof it. Please look into I already let Medicare beware of this. It may take time but I hope they sell that place. They need a chance and Fired all the big shots and Board members. Need a fresh start, you can’t fix that place or change it name again. I feel sorry for Workers and taxpayers. Worker please leave before the close the doors. I hate that place. I work in best place love going to work. I again have proof documents and government is aware of this. BH keep doing corrupted things and you are only going to get court. Bye Bye BH.

  • Fishing is right SEIU is needed
    Marie I also have examples of GROSS medicare and Medicaid FRAUD
    I told my director and was told to be quiet about it
    Corruption is everywhere we all know what the admin at BHMC are like !
    gross corruption is still rife here Perhaps they will have to sell after all who would want to be the CEO of this system
    All the c suite needs to be replaced

  • What’s going on at BH with HHS-OIG recent visit, FBI investigation, FL IG – Rick Scott cover up, lobbyist log, tet a tet between corporate compliance and Barrett, etc? Last I knew these were all ongoing. As for DiPietro following the $ trail, his true colors are revealed. Another politician who assumes the tax payers are little more than cash cows who should foot his legal bill.

  • PS. Between all of the articles in bulldog, be it BH, the airport, or other gross monetary mismanagement of tax payer money, anyone get the sense Broward county politics is filthier than the mob?

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