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Broward Health’s ‘independent’ probe led by law firms with undisclosed ties to Gov. Scott

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Former Broward Health CEO Pauline Grant, right, and Broward Health General Counsel Lynn Barrett

When Broward Health General Counsel Lynn Barrett started an “independent” investigation that led to last December’s ouster of popular hospital district President/CEO Pauline Grant, the two law firms she retained to investigate and advise about Grant had deep, undisclosed ties to Gov. Rick Scott.

As governor, Scott oversees Broward Health and chooses the taxing district’s governing board of commissioners. The hiring of two out-of-state law firms used by Scott suggests the inquiry was not independent and that the lawyers who investigated Grant were conflicted.

“Was I aware of that? No. It wasn’t disclosed, but it should have been, of course,” said former Commissioner Maureen Canada, the only Broward Health board member to vote against firing Grant.

Canada testified Sept. 27 before a Broward grand jury that’s investigating possible Sunshine Law violations relating to Grant’s termination and other matters at Broward Health.

Former Broward Health Commissioner Maureen Canada

The American Bar Association has said there are more than 45,000 law firms in the U.S. Hundreds of those firms specialize in healthcare law. Yet the two firms Barrett chose were Nashville, TN.-based Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis and Birmingham, AL.-based Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.

Waller Lansden has represented healthcare giant HCA for decades, including in the mid-1990s when Scott was the chief executive of what was then called Columbia/HCA. Scott departed in July 1997 amid a federal Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigation that ultimately cost the company a record-breaking $1.7 billion in criminal fines and civil settlements. Scott, however, took with him a separation agreement from HCA worth upwards of $16 million.

Bradley, the brand name of Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings, was the law firm for Richard L. Scott Investments, the governor’s Naples-based firm before his election in 2010.  Bradley partner Stephen T. Braun was Columbia/HCA’s general counsel under Scott and he and his firm have represented Rick and Ann Scott in various stock transactions.

Broward Health lawyers represent Scott family’s investment firm

Bradley also represents G. Scott Capital Partners, the Connecticut-based “family” investment firm run by Gov. Scott’s former employees where the First Lady is a part owner and has invested tens of millions of dollars, some of which apparently came from the $62 million sale of walk-in clinic operator Solantic, which the governor transferred to her shortly after taking office amid allegations of conflict of interest.

“We only invest the capital of one family,” Scott Capital, as it is known online, told InvestmentBank.com in an interview last year. “We tend to focus on deals in the $20 (million) to $50 (million) range.’’ In 2016, Scott Capital reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had $291 million in family assets under management.

Broward Health General Counsel Barrett did not respond to emailed questions inquiring whether the governor’s office provided any input when she chose the Waller Lansden and Bradley firms.

Attorney Eugene Pettis

Grant is suing Broward Health in circuit court for breach of contract. In a separate lawsuit, she is asking the court to declare that Barrett and Broward Health’s board violated the Sunshine Law to void her termination and order the board to hold a hearing “in the sunshine” to address both the investigation and her employment.

Her attorney, Fort Lauderdale’s Eugene Pettis, called Waller Lansden’s report about Grant “the most biased, one-sided piece of work I’ve ever seen,” adding that it omitted information from “essential witnesses” that exonerates his client.

Pettis said news of the ties between the district’s outside law firms and Gov. Scott confirmed his suspicions that outside forces had orchestrated events. “I think this playbook is coming from a higher level than the North Broward Hospital District,” said Pettis, using Broward Health’s legal name. “What the final chapter is going to be we’ll see, but clearly Pauline Grant and her insistence on following proper protocols and ethical guidelines is not what they wanted to confront in a CEO.”

‘Absolute shock’

Barrett disclosed the Grant investigation Dec. 1 at the outset of a hastily arranged special meeting of Broward Health’s board.

“I was in absolute shock by what was going down,” said Canada. “As commissioners, we are supposed to be given material prior to the meeting to educate ourselves on what’s happening, but in this case that did not happen.”

Minutes of the Dec.1 board meeting detail what happened. In sum, Barrett told commissioners that Waller’s “independent” lawyers had concluded that Broward Health’s chief executive had committed a “probable violation of the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.”

No details about the investigation were provided to the board that day. But Jack Selden, a Bradley lawyer and former U.S. Attorney in north Alabama, warned the board about potential civil and criminal fallout that could result from the Waller firm’s findings and advised that the district should take “appropriate actions.”

Selden and Barrett reassured board members about the integrity of the probe, describing it as “independent” more than a half-dozen times. That imprimatur of fairness set the stage for the board’s 4-1 vote to fire Grant with little discussion minutes later.

Attorney Jack Selden

Concerns about possible violations of the Anti-Kickback law were of heightened concern for the board. Two years ago, Broward Health paid about $70 million to settle a federal whistleblower lawsuit alleging it paid illegal kickbacks to nine doctors who referred patients to its hospitals.

As part of that settlement, the North Broward Hospital District signed a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement requiring, among other things, that it report suspected wrongdoing to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Florida Bulldog obtained a copy of a nine-page letter written by lead Waller attorney Richard W. Westling to OIG Senior Counsel Laura E. Ellis laying out the case against Grant. The letter, documenting what Westling called a “reportable event” under the Corporate Integrity Agreement, was written a week after Grant was terminated.

‘A substantial independent investigation’

“It represents the culmination of a substantial independent investigation by outside counsel, which included multiple interviews, document review, and factual legal analysis,” Westling wrote.

Westling reported that his team determined that the way contracts had been awarded for on-call orthopedic surgeons at Broward Health North while Grant ran that hospital was illegal and possibly criminal.

“Our investigation revealed that the administration of North’s paid orthopedic trauma call did not comply with longstanding OIG guidance in this area in that it failed to treat physicians equally and, instead, favored physicians who were able to bring additional referrals to North,” Westling wrote.

Westling’s report says that in November 2015 an orthopedic surgeon, identified only as “Dr. A,” complained about Grant. Broward Health board minutes identify Dr. A as Dr. Steven Silverfarb of Margate.

The complaint alleged Grant was involved in kickback violations regarding unequal treatment “in connection with the management and oversight of the hospital’s PPUC [Physician Payment for Uncompensated Care] orthopedic trauma call panel in that calls were not being dispersed equally among the physicians on the panel,” the letter said.

The letter goes on to recount Silverfarb’s years of trying to gain acceptance to the PPUC and, upon finally getting in, his allegations of unequal treatment in receiving assignments.

The letter notes Grant’s denials of wrongdoing, but concludes “we did not find her credible.”

“Moreover, while we did not find any evidence that Ms. Grant received any direct payments from anyone in connection with the call service, she was eligible for a bonus if Broward Health and [Broward Health] North hit certain financial targets,” the letter says.

Questions remain

The letter does not say whether Grant ever received such a bonus.

Westling’s letter leaves other questions unanswered. Was any investigation made of others with control over the call panel? Who decided the call rotation? Why were decisions made? What did witnesses have to say about Grant? Who were those witnesses? What did documents show?

Toward the end of the Dec. 1 meeting, Commissioner Canada announced that she would not seek reappointment when her two-year term ended in mid-December 2016.

“She would just like to close today with saying that she believes today is a very sad day for Broward Health and she is beginning to question the moral compass of this board,” the minutes say.

On Dec. 5, Canada wrote Gov. Scott to tell him of her decision and explain her reasons, including Barrett’s “incompetence” regarding the requirements of the Sunshine Law and how her legal advice could lead to lawbreaking. She noted that Broward State Attorney Mike Satz had just commenced an investigation of possible Sunshine Law violations that “will necessarily focus on Ms. Barrett’s potential role as a conduit between commissioners.”

Because of that, Canada wrote that she had asked Commission Chair Rocky Rodriguez to put an item on Broward Health’s next agenda to discuss Barrett’s “future employment” at the district. But the meeting wasn’t scheduled until a week after her term ended, so Canada asked Gov. Scott to “allow me to serve as commissioner until such time that my request can be considered by the board.”

That didn’t happen. Instead, Scott moved Beverly Capasso from her soon-to-expire at-large seat – to which she’d been appointed two months before – into Canada’s District 1 seat with its four-year term.

“That silenced my request,” said Canada. In May, the board named Capasso, a former chief executive of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, as Broward Health’s interim President/CEO.

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Latest comments

  • While not a fan of Pauline Grant, I am less of a fan of that weasel Silverfarb. You know why that Dickskin didn’t get enough call? Because he sucks. Better to have Stevie Wonder work on you. When your angry and bitching and treat staff like they’re servants instead of professionals, you don’t deserve call. No one wants to work with a turd. That said the Backdoor bullshit, the lying, the corruption has become so commonplace that employees are numb to it all. Maybe someday all this will come crashing down and they will perpwalk all these corrupt cocksuckers out the door.

  • SO The call schedule is now opening up to all these orthopedic surgeons, you just have to ask the people who cared for patients of Silverfarb what he is like and all he is wanting is a BIG pay out. Ask then about the times he did not call back about patients how he left them in excruciating pain, how he cursed and sweared at not only staff bit patients, and the only one who wanted to do anything was Grant. Also ask why the CNO RUDITZ did nothing about the substandard care when her nurses complained and the terrible Risk staff also did nothing. The hospital Quality manager and hospital Peer review did nothing about him and others in this hospital with quality issues
    Grant was all about quality of care, she acted when others would turn their heads.
    The others all have blood on their hands Grant acted with integrity protecting the public.

  • Great reporting Dan. Keep up the good work exposing how many with ties to the Gov have their hands out getting a lot of money from Broward County Taxpayers.

    Report how much money has been spent fighting Pauline Grant’s lawsuit and which law firms have benefited.

  • Westling’s letter leaves other questions unanswered. Was any investigation made of others with control over the call panel? Who decided the call rotation? Why were decisions made? What did witnesses have to say about Grant? Who were those witnesses? What did documents show?

    ANSWERS PLEASE

    BUT WHY? because Silverfarb is one of many bad physicians at Broward North on a gravy train who provide substandard care, Ms Pauline tried to prevent that and look what happened

    Did he have peer review was it the peer review committee remove him,

    ANSWERs PLEASE

  • Silverfarb is one hell of a human, the way he treats the staff and patients is more of a dictator than a fellow physician, his quality SUCKS everyone knows that. Having him on the call schedule for the most injured patients in this hospital sees would compromise their safety
    We are constantly let down by the hospital Quality, Peer Review and good old boy mentality at this hospital. Grant was right as CEO she has ultimate authority over the orthopedic trauma program as written in state law to protect the patient and enforce standards.
    Also the new administration including Tailor, are wrong to have one inclusive call schedule every trauma center has two call schedules general trauma and trauma orthopedics, except Broward health which I believe is what they in administration are trying to replicate. It should not happen here at north not all ortho surgeons are created equal, Where is the department of health in all this ?why have they not closed this program down, This hospital should be reported investigated and closed as a trauma center. I am considering calling them, the JC and CMS. This is about quality it is not about anything else

  • Many throughout the trauma community are looking at this story with interest
    To be clear the ACS allows the TMD to remove physicians with quality concerns from the call schedule, and the TMD attests to their ability to care for trauma patients.
    The CEO is responsible for all aspects of the program, if she was told there were problems with quality they are in their rights to remove him as a trauma center
    To me and others it seems like people not understanding trauma, are they ACS or are they state verified? Who was the program manager when this happened and the TMD? Is there turn over in the trauma program? is everyone fellowship trained in trauma and surgical critical care, are patients cared for throughout the admission and beyond by these highly qualified surgeons, it seems a hot bed of confusion

  • In my opinion-Capasso and Barrett have removed any Leader with Guts.

    Grossman, Taylor, Todd-Atkinson and the novices at Corporate all NEED their job as opposed to wanting to make a difference. They wouldn’t have the guts to remove a physician for quality issues or question the novice “boy wonders”

    Meanwhile Barrett advised The Board to fight Pauline’s Lawsuit spending millions on attorney fees as Capasso adds highly paid VPs, Assist VPs, Chief of this and that to pressure subordinates to cut costs. The people at the bedside and the patient lose as well as Broward County Taxpayers. How many of the VPs live in Parkland?

  • Heard Capasso asked med centers to cut costs but paid high dollar amount to pay her and her friends, who are not only incompetent, but full of revenge and hatred to the good employees.

    Karma will come back to Capasso and her friends. Behave and get out asap.

  • Would like to thank Dr Hunt for illuminating the issues regarding Er/trauma services.as a health care worker it’s good too get this perspective. But from my perspective I want to know what the fuck is happening with Er/trauma services @BHN. Got this big new ER. Filled it with idiots. Run by the Queen of Idiots, Donna Bowers, holy shit, can we get a moment of silence, for the death of civility, humanity, common sense. Why is every result an excuse. Why is teamwork and cooperation met with obstacles and obstruction. This bitch can’t take responsibility for anything. The poorly trained nurses. The disregard of traditional trauma protocol, lack of awareness to basic pt needs.

  • They are either lazy or poorly trained or not supervised. Possibly all three. Donna Bowers may be the most ill prepared ER manager in my experience, which is extensive. Lack of Vision, lack of knowledge, lack of social awareness and interpersonal skills. PLEASE READ THE ART OF ACTIVE LISTENING. Unfortunately her disastrous communication style has matriculated to her staff. A wonderful cacophony of poorly trained, ill mannered, egotists, that think working at a level 2 trauma center, means you know how to WORK there. Walk the walk, before you talk the talk. It’s embarrassing. But it’s not your fault. It’s DONNA BOWERS, cut your ties, Fire this Skank.

  • HR needs to look at how many staff have left the ED at BHN in the last three years, Capasso needs to make a decision, before the district is sued because of the current ED manager. EVERYONE knows what she is like, she is terrible, just terrible, but is protected by Ruditz andHR when you leave will not do anything about her instead they turn it on you. King was awful, when I tried to tell her what was happening they just turned the other way and would not support, this new guy in HR is just as bad, It is one mistake after another. bad behavior is accepted and the normal THIS IS ABUSE, LISTEN UP, BHN ABUSE remember A DONKEY CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH BEFORE IT KICKS BACK we are ready kick

  • Funny how this digressed !

    If anyone has some spare time they can come to Utah where I have a spare iPad and they can play angry birds,

    Seriously I left BH folks, get out if it is like this for your sanity

  • Our ED manager (DB) is the golden child, she is revered by all but her staff of which I am currently one. Her huddles are a disgrace, she forgets herself and her actions are abusive for which I am sure one of us will one day sue her. Many people have left because of her, but wait this is not new, it happened in trauma, it happened when she was a AHN, isn’t there is history here and isn’t the reason we are writing on a public blog a weakness of the HR and disciplinary action that should be taken but never has never Once again the corruption is showing through of this hospital. Also ask any person in the ED not particularly nursing how she is and loud and clear they will tell you. I really don’t care if you look up my IP go ahead and let me squeal like a mouse about her , something needs to be done, and something about the CNO who allows this, Riditz is a part of this evil I do not want to leave here but if I do I will make sure I do so with an attorney by my side Shame on you shame on y’all who allow this evil woman to continue to work and creating a hostile environment

  • All y’all I think we can all of us who work at BHN ED would agree that the best way to deal with our abusive boss is to round her up and ship her to a small island in the Pacific Ocean, preferably one populated by an unusually large number of hungry tigers. Perhaps we could also send her boss Ruditz and a few others who support this golden child

    Sadly, that method is logistically and legally complicated, and I personally would feel bad for the tigers

    I am not going to swear but the is my indicators:

    It’s uncalled-for in any way, shape, or form to excuse the belittling or humiliating of another human being she has no right to yell at me in front of others, or behind closed doors. Yelling should never be tolerated. also talking disrespectfully and verbally trying to undermine confidence should also be strictly prohibited by her there is no excuse.

    Setting policies and procedures in place, and making sure they’re followed through is one thing. Trying to control me personally in the workplace and cut me off from my support is quite another
    Some controlling-and-isolating behaviors she has are : Wanting to know what you do every second of the day, Monitoring who I speak to Showing displeasure when I speak to others or certain people at work. For too long this has gone on, for me the final straw was throwing a clip board at me This hospital is really run by criminals, and what is worse she is supported especially by the C suite. I am considering reporting this for abuse to MQA

  • I am an Ed nurse and I am sad to say that feelings about this person are very negative after nearly 4 years of abuse people have had enough. As an ED nurse I have energy I have personality and I am willing to step up and and pleased to say I can do anything in the ED, unfortunately my manager does not have any of that, she is grumpy at best she has a very flat personality and has never worked ED, we have no respect for her ,she has bad rages, she had favorites and the worse part of all this the hospital supports her 100%, come on guys we have had it, The recent changes with upper management have not helped, now we have a CEO from a cottage hospital come to this inner urban hospital with all these problems, we deserve better, BEV what are you thinking of ? We the staff are feeling totally let down, in every way, way to go Bev way to go no wonder Jackson fired you. Lets hope they indite you all

  • I am a trauma surgeon, and ACS site surveyor all I can say is I am pleased I do not work in this mess
    As a total outside looking in and reading what limited news, I can see the following:
    1) The CEO grant had every right under trauma standards and ACS rules for trauma centers to limit trauma call if quality is an issue with any physician VERBATIM
    2) Grant would be an easy target , and it would be very easy to say this was because of receiving kick backs
    3) It really does appear there is a bigger agenda here!
    4) Be aware this is receiving coverage in the trauma community and people are taking notice of what is happening here
    5) Trauma centers are different, your trauma manager and medical director should Transcend the normal hierarchy in hospitals and should have authority to run the program, I have a sense they do not have this authority, and they are been told what to do by people who do not know what trauma is
    6) The ED manager does seem to have ruffled many feathers this is a bad thing
    7) Any changes you have made to the program (ie call schedules) should have been made by the medical director NOT administration
    8) Expect an full and unannounced survey with all this publicity , they really would be foolish not to survey you as it would appear the program is not serving the public well
    9) This center is unstable with all the changes I am reading
    10) I have worked at the ACS level for years, this is one hot mess I am reading

  • Well, seems that the Ed canaries have come home to roost. Thank y’all. The truth shall set y’all free. The climate is ripe to expose workplace bullying. This is simple, Donna Bowers is a Bully. She feigns the victim. Someone, always is picking on her, talking about her, trying to make her look and feel bad. Being the victim is the best cover for being an abuser. There is always an excuse, endless excuses. And, Someone to blame. To deflect and direct your rage to. You poor bastards. Resist this bitch. Civil disobedience. Promote others to speak out and up. You know what stops a Bully. Standing your ground, standing up to her. Bullies are punks, weak, insecure, they fold up quickly. Good luck. Oh yeah, the new auto doors from old A side to the ED. Swipe to get in, swipe to get out? What if there’s an active shooter IN the ED, you don’t have a badge to SWIPE OUT, you are locked in. Think about it. Lock people in, holy shit, how stupid.

  • Work place bullying at NORTH is rampant, Bowers has always been a bully clear and simple bully, when she came to the ED how many of our colleagues left how many have since left, what is our turn over of staff . She is totally supported by management and the quicker the management team understand RUDITZ is a big part of this supporting the bully team the better. WORKING AT NORTH IS WORKING IN A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT DAILY, CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP US SOMEONE THIS BITCH ALICE IS NO GOOD WE ARE SCREAMING FOR HELP HERE
    As for the active shooter it would not surprise me one day if one of our own staff flip and become violent towards her God pray this does not happen but it is at boiling point for some of us and intervention is needed, BUT there is bad feeling all over the hospital ALSO PLEASE CAN IT BE EXPLAINED WHY MANAGEMENT IS DOWN PLAYING THE AMOUNT OF ATTACKS ON STAFF RELATIVES AND PATIENTS AT NORTH

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