Marco Rubio’s campaign racks up inquiries about prohibited contributions

By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org 

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio

In what has become a regular habit for Marco Rubio’s campaigns, the Federal Elections Commission has again flagged the senator’s presidential committee for possibly skirting federal law limiting the types and amounts of donations it can receive.

The FEC’s latest questions about questionable behavior indicate a pattern that shows Rubio’s political committees have played fast and loose with rules governing campaign financing, according to Noah Bookbinder, executive director for the elections watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington (CREW).

“There seems to be a willingness by Sen. Rubio’s campaign and groups associated with it to doing things that are outside the rules and are not allowed,” Bookbinder said. “They push the envelope. It’s only when they feel pressure that they have retreated from those kind of tactics.”

In December, CREW requested that the Senate Ethics Committee investigate Rubio for allegedly paying his book author Mark Salter $20,000 for “strategic consulting” around the same time both worked on the 2012 memoir. The watchdog group also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service last year against Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that spent $8 million in television ads promoting the Florida Republican.

Meanwhile, Rubio’s campaign has been racking up inquiries from the FEC regarding its donors. Since the beginning of the year, the commission has identified more than $1.2 million in questionable donations.

According to a March 28 letter sent to Rubio committee treasurer Lisa Lisker, FEC analyst Laura Beaufort cited $783,823 in “excessive, prohibited and impermissible” contributions that the campaign received in February. For comparison, the campaign for Jeb Bush, who dropped out prior to Rubio, received $29,189 in prohibited donations during the same period, according to the FEC.

The FEC letter was sent two weeks after Rubio suspended his presidential campaign following an embarrassing second-place finish in Florida’s winner-take-all Republican primary to frontrunner Donald Trump, who trounced the senator by 18 points on his home turf.

The 44-year-old pol, who said he will retire from the Senate after his term ends, still hopes to play a spoiler if the nomination is contested at the Republican National Convention this summer. According to recent media reports, Rubio intends to keep the delegates he won.

On the outside chance Rubio were to become the nominee through a contested convention, it would appear the campaign intends to maintain its war chest for the general election until told otherwise.

 In an April 12 response to the FEC, Lisker said the campaign is re-designating 84 contributions received in January and February for the general election that total a little over $1 million. Yet only 16 contributions totaling $119,950 are being refunded.

No comment

Rubio’s Senate spokeswoman Kristen Morrell did not respond to emails seeking comment. Over the phone, one of his aides told FloridaBulldog.org that Rubio’s office only accepts media inquiries submitted electronically. Lisker ignored multiple requests for comment via voicemail at her office and home.

Since 2009, Rubio’s Senate and presidential committees have received 23 “request for additional information” letters, or RFAIs, according to the FEC’s website. The letters typically alert treasurers to questionable contributions and request an explanation as to why their campaigns accepted possibly illegal donations. In many cases, those contributions are either refunded to the donor or applied to a general election if the donation was incorrectly logged for a primary election.

In 2012, Rubio’s committee agreed to pay an $8,000 civil penalty to the FEC after the commission determined it accepted $210,173 in excessive contributions during his senate campaign six years ago. The sloppy bookkeeping has persisted through his presidential campaign. Last September, it refunded more than $120,000 in contributions the FEC tagged as excessive.

In a February RFAI, FEC analyst Beaufort documented $540,676 in “excessive, prohibited and impermissible” contributions the Rubio presidential committee received in January. In late March, Lisker notified the FEC that the campaign had sent refunds to 45 of the 101 donors listed in the February RFAI.

Beaufort’s most recent RFAI included a 31-page list of 93 donors who gave more than the maximum $2,700 limit allowed per individual per election. Beaufort also singled out $10,000 in excessive contributions from two Super PACs, $6,710 in prohibited contributions by individuals with a foreign address, and $2,500 combined from three organizations not registered with the FEC.

“The frequency of these additional inquiries and other potential problems with Sen. Rubio’s campaigns is a little bit alarming,” Bookbinder said. “We should really be figuring out how we can reign in people disregarding or breaking the rules.”

After “60 Minutes” on The 28 Pages, a new call to open up classified 9/11 records

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, left with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes

Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, left with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes

The push to declassify the government’s secret 9/11 records got an invigorating jolt Monday with House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s call to open up the 28 hidden pages in Congress’s Joint Inquiry report about the terrorist attacks.

Those pages, addressing “specific sources of foreign support” for the hijackers, were the focus of a 60 Minutes TV report on Sunday featuring former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, co-chairman of the government’s first investigation into 9/11.

“I agree with former Sen. Bob Graham that these documents should be declassified and made public, and that the Bush Administration’s refusal to do so was a mistake,” Pelosi said in a statement Monday. Pelosi served on both the House Intelligence Committee and the Joint Inquiry.

Saudi Arabia also responded to the 60 Minutes report, calling it “a compilation of myths and erroneous charges.”

Efforts are under way on Capitol Hill and elsewhere to open up the 28 pages and other classified 9/11 records kept out of public view by the Bush and Obama Administrations.

In the House, 41 members from 19 states and both parties have co-sponsored House Resolution 14, which urges President Obama to release the 28 pages as “necessary for a full public understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the United States.”

A companion measure in the Senate has three co-sponsors.

For three years, the Florida Bulldog also has sought to open up the 28 pages through a process known as a Mandatory Declassification Review – an alternative to the Freedom of Information Act that’s used less by reporters and more by historians.

Miami attorney Thomas Julin represents Broward Bulldog Inc., the Florida Bulldog’s parent, and 9/11 authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan in the matter.

Waiting for declassification

“We stand where we’ve always stood, waiting for the U.S. to rule and no indication as to when they will rule, but I think Pelosi’s call and the 60 Minutes report and Graham’s continued work would have some impact,” said Julin of the Hunton & Williams law firm.

Miami attorney Thomas Julin

Miami attorney Thomas Julin

In July 2014, after the FBI and Justice Department ignored the Bulldog’s request for access to the 28 pages, Julin filed an appeal with the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), which makes recommendations to the president after conducting a review of the requested documents. Among other things, the appeal pointed out that declassification would help Americans understand how the September 11 attacks were financed.

The panel consists of senior level representatives appointed by the Departments of State, Defense and Justice, the National Archives, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Advisor. It is not, however, a rubberstamp.

In 2014, the agency decided 48 appeals containing a total of 451 documents. The panel affirmed prior agency decisions in a quarter of those documents, and declassified 75 percent in whole or in part, according to the most recent annual report by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Information Security Oversight Office.

In the summer of 2014, after a relative of a man killed during 9/11 accused President Obama of breaking a promise to make public the 28 pages, the National Security Council announced that the White House had asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to review the 28 pages for possible declassification.

CBS News reported Monday that the White House said the declassification review “is under way and that the administration hopes to complete it by the end of Mr. Obama’s presidency.’’

A recommendation by ISCAP to declassify the 28 pages would afford political cover for the president to act.

“It certainly would assure the president could tell the Saudis and the American public that all aspects of the national security apparatus has given the matter thorough consideration,” said Julin.

On Monday, Graham said was disappointed that 60 Minutes did not also report other “important information about 9/11,” including the story of the FBI’s once-secret investigation of a Saudi family living near Sarasota found to have ties to the 9/11 terrorists.

The Sarasota Saudis

The FBI investigation began after neighbors reported that the family of Abdulaziz al-Hijji had moved abruptly out of their home in an upscale, gated community two weeks before the attacks, leaving behind their cars, clothes, furniture and other belongings. Sources on and off the record said agents later used gatehouse log books and license plate photographs to establish that vehicles driven by 9/11 hijack pilots Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah and other hijackers had visited the al-Hijji residence in the Prestancia development.

Abdulaziz al-Hijji, right, in Sarasota prior to 9/11 and leaving his London office in 2012 Photo in London by Warren Allot for The Telegraph

Abdulaziz al-Hijji, right, in Sarasota prior to 9/11 and leaving his London office in 2012 Photo in London by Warren Allot for The Telegraph

FloridaBulldog.org, working with Irish author and journalist Anthony Summers, was first to report the story in September 2011, and how the FBI had not disclosed it to either Congress’s Joint Inquiry or the subsequent 9/11 Commission.

While the FBI acknowledged its investigation, it said that agents had found no evidence connecting the al-Hijjis to the terrorists. Agents declined to elaborate.

The FBI’s denial, however, was contradicted three years ago by its own document made public amid ongoing Freedom of Information litigation brought by Florida Bulldog’s parent company. One FBI report, dated April 16, 2002, said agents had determined that the Sarasota Saudis had “many connections to individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.” The report was heavily censored, citing national security.

The FBI sought to discredit its own 2002 investigative report last year in findings released by the 9/11 Review Commission – a secretive, three-person entity whose members were paid by the FBI.

The report by the commission, whose members included Reagan-era Attorney General Ed Meese, said the FBI had disavowed the 2002 report, calling it “poorly written and wholly unsubstantiated.”

“When questioned later by others in the FBI, the special agent who wrote (it) was unable to provide any basis for the contents of the document or explain why he wrote it as he did,” the report says.

The report does not name the agent, but its language suggests the commission accepted the FBI’s statements without challenge. The report does not address why the FBI kept its Sarasota investigation a secret from two federal inquiries into 9/11.

Said Bob Graham, “You could do another 60 Minutes just on Sarasota.”

Broward Health Chairman Di Pietro quits the hospital district’s governing board

UPDATE : Thursday, April 14 — Suspended Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro today announced his resignation for the hospital district’s board of directors. He offered no explanation. On Monday, a judge ordered Gov. Rick Scott to reinstate Di Pietro. Scott has appealed that ruling.

UPDATE: Tuesday, April 12 – Gov. Rick Scott late today appealed Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips’ order that he must reinstate suspended Broward Heath Chairman David Di Pietro.

The appeal would likely prevent Di Pietro’s return to the board before its next regular meeting on April 27.

The notice of appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach offered no immediate grounds to overturn Phillips’ Monday order. The appeal is being handled by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Di Pietro said, “I am confident Judge Phillips’ well-reasoned decision will be upheld and this is nothing more than a stall tactic by Gov. Scott.”

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Gov. Rick Scott, left, and suspended Broward Health board chairman David Di Pietro

Gov. Rick Scott, left, and suspended Broward Health board chairman David Di Pietro

A Broward Circuit Court judge ruled Monday that Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his authority when he suspended Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro, ordering the governor to reinstate him immediately.

Di Pietro was suspended by Scott for alleged malfeasance. But Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips’ seven page order concluded that Scott’s executive order of suspension was “devoid of any specific acts of malfeasance” against Di Pietro.

In her order, Phillips said that if Gov. Scott wants to try again to oust Di Pietro his “executive order must comply with Florida law.”

In an interview, Di Pietro said he intends to return to return to the board and continue to serve as chairman. Some had speculated that Di Pietro might use a win in court to declare victory and announce his resignation.

In a written statement, Di Pietro added, “I am pleased and gratified at the Judge’s ruling reinstating me to the Board of Commissioners at Broward Health.  Judge Phillips’ order overturning Gov. Scott’s Executive Order is vindication of my service at Broward Health.

“Based on the judge’s ruling, I call on Governor Scott to lift his Executive Order against my fellow Commissioner Lt. Colonel Darryl Wright.”

Scott suspended Wright and Di Pietro on March 18 after the state’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, expressed “grave concerns” that Broward Health board members might be interfering with her ongoing review of contracts at the agency.

Miguel began her review in the wake of the Jan. 23 suicide of Broward Health Chief Executive Dr. Nabil El Sanadi.

Di Pietro, first appointed by Scott to Broward Health’s board in September 2011, challenged the governor’s authority to suspend him in a lawsuit filed four days after his suspension.

A hearing was held on Friday at which Gov. Scott was represented by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.

Judge Phillips’ order says that her review of the case determined that Miguel’s March 18 letter to the governor recommending the removal of Di Pietro and Wright was deficient in a number of ways. Most importantly, it did not provide specifics about what Di Pietro had allegedly done wrong.

The letter’s statements “do not rise to the level of malfeasance such that the court could sustain the executive order,” the judge wrote.

Di Pietro hopes Scott will quickly reinstate him.

“I am proud of my record of fighting corruption at Broward Health, and with my reinstatement, I intend to continue to champion multiple transparency and accountability reforms.”

Republican-led Broward Health paid $3 million in legal fees to firms tied to Gov. Rick Scott

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org 

The Foley & Lardner law firm recently removed from its Facebook page this photo of Gov. Scott paying a visit to its Jacksonville office on Aug. 24. Pictured with the governor, left to right, are Scott's former environmental secretary Herschel Vinyard, office managing partner Kevin Hyde and Karen Bowling, Scott's ex-partner in the Solantic urgent-care clinic chain

The Foley & Lardner law firm recently removed from its Facebook page this photo of Gov. Scott paying a visit to its Jacksonville office on Aug. 24. Pictured with the governor, left to right, are Scott’s former environmental secretary Herschel Vinyard, office managing partner Kevin Hyde and Karen Bowling, Scott’s ex-partner in the Solantic urgent-care clinic chain

Republican-controlled Broward Health paid two law firms with strong ties to Republican Gov. Rick Scott more than $3 million in legal fees in the last 12 months.

The law firms are Foley & Lardner, which billed $1.72 million, and Greenberg Traurig, whose invoices totaled $1.65 million, according to data compiled by Broward Health.

Foley & Lardner’s Republican-heavy roster includes Herschel Vinyard, the governor’s former environmental protection secretary; Christopher Kise, general counsel to Scott’s transition team who was later appointed by Scott to the board of Enterprise Florida, and Karen Bowling, Scott’s partner in the multi-million dollar Solantic urgent-care clinic chain.

Foley & Lardner has been generous to the Republican Party of Florida, giving it more than $195,000 during the last two gubernatorial campaigns won by Scott.

Greenberg Traurig was similarly helpful to the state GOP. Since 2010, it donated more than $192,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

Greenberg Traurig’s principal connections to Gov. Scott are Fred Karlinsky and Hayden Dempsey.

Karlinsky is a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, insurance lobbyist and Republican finance official who co-chairs Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s bid to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Dempsey is a former special counsel to both Gov. Scott and his campaign. Dempsey leads Greenberg’s Florida government practice.

Greenberg Traurig lawyer/lobbyist Fred Karlinsky

Greenberg Traurig lawyer/lobbyist Fred Karlinsky

Karlinsky is responsible for all three contracts Greenberg Traurig obtained from Broward Health last year – one for legal services and two more to supply federal and state lobbying.

The district’s legal costs, with hourly rates as high as $695, were the focus of criticism at a meeting of Broward Health’s board in late February when it was disclosed that the work of the two law firms was in addition to Broward Health’s in-house staff of six lawyers.

“The chair [David Di Pietro] expressed concern that the legal bills are completely out of control,” say minutes of the meeting. “He feels this is runaway lawyering with no governance from the board.”

Less than a month later, Gov. Scott suspended Di Pietro and board colleague Darryl Wright for alleged malfeasance after his chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, expressed concern that Broward Health board members might be interfering with her ongoing review of contracts and other matters at the district.

Di Pietro is suing to be reinstated, contending the governor overstepped his authority. A hearing was held Friday; a ruling is expected this week.

El Sanadi signed contracts

The contracts of both Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig were signed last year by then-Broward Health Chief Executive Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, who killed himself in January. El Sanadi was a long-time contributor to the Republican Party of Florida who gave the party more than $90,000 during Scott’s two gubernatorial campaigns, state records show.

Broward Health’s governing board, whose members were appointed by Gov. Scott, hired El Sanadi as CEO in December 2014.

Within months, El Sanadi hired Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig. District sources say El Sanadi acted at the direction of Fort Lauderdale lobbyist and Scott confidant William “Billy” Rubin.

Lobbyist William "Billy" Rubin

Lobbyist William “Billy” Rubin

Rubin did not respond to requests for comment. His company, The Rubin Group, posts on its website a client list that includes a trio of companies that do business with Broward Health, including 21st Century Oncology.

In February, FloridaBulldog.org reported that Gov. Scott owned an indirect financial interest in Fort Myers-based 21st Century Oncology in 2012 when it was awarded an extraordinary no-bid, 25-year contract to supply radiation oncology services to Broward Health. The governor’s ownership interest was through his $210,000 investment in Vestar Capital Partners, the private equity firm that owns 21st Century.

State records show 21st Century later contributed nearly $400,000 to Scott’s re-election campaign and another $275,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

Invoices sent to Broward Health by Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig were reviewed and approved by El Sanadi and Broward Health General Counsel Lynn Barrett, whose duties include employing and directing outside counsel.

In her contract with the hospital district, Barrett agreed not to “engage nor retain her prior employers to provide any legal representation on behalf of the district and not to refer any district legal services to her prior employers.”

Barrett listed three of her recent prior employers in the contract, including the Jones Walker law firm.

Legal work referred to general counsel’s ex-boss

As general counsel, Barrett has referred no legal work to Jones Walker. She has, however, referred hundreds of thousands of dollars of work to her former boss at Jones Walker, Myla Reizen.

Reizen led Jones Walker’s healthcare practice when Barrett joined that firm in January 2010. Reizen was quoted in a press release then as calling Barrett an “outstanding addition…to our healthcare practice.”

Broward Health General Counsel Lynn Barrett, left, and Foley & Lardner partner Myla Reizen

Broward Health General Counsel Lynn Barrett, left, and Foley & Lardner partner Myla Reizen

Reizen jumped to Foley & Lardner in December 2013.

In March 2015, El Sanadi hired Foley & Lardner to represent Broward Health with regulatory and compliance issues “as requested” at rates as high as $695 an hour. The contract gave Reizen “primary responsibility” for that representation.

About the same time, El Sanadi was looking to hire an in-house lawyer to replace Broward Health’s then-outside General Counsel Sam Goren. Sources said Reizen recommended Barrett for the job. Barrett, following approval by the board, took over in July 2015.

Between June 2015 and January 2016, Foley & Lardner billed $1.51 million, records show.

Barrett did not respond to a detailed request for comment.

Reizen also did not respond to a request to discuss Foley & Lardner’s connections to Gov. Scott and how Broward Health came to hire her and her firm.

Karlinsky, of Greenberg Traurig, referred a similar request for comment to a law firm spokeswoman, who released this statement: “We believe we provide high quality and responsive legal services nationally and internationally; we believe that is why we have been retained here, as well as by many other clients in the healthcare field throughout the U.S. and internationally.”

Ties run deep

Karlinsky’s ties to the governor run deep. In addition to serving as statewide finance co-chair for Scott’s re-election campaign last year, he accompanied the governor on two foreign trade missions – to London in 2012 and Israel in 2011. Also on the governor’s Israel trade mission: Billy Rubin.

The two Broward Health lobbying contracts Karlinsky secured for Greenberg are for terms of 19 months. The total value of the federal contract is $150,000. The state lobbying contract is worth another $50,000.

Information compiled by Broward Health staff and disclosed at a February board meeting says that Greenberg Traurig was tasked with reviewing approximately 1,700 contracts. The firm also assisted in drafting and negotiating contracts for doctors, including Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah, who recently switched his hospital affiliation from Holy Cross to Broward Health Imperial Point.

Zachariah is an important Republican fundraiser whose son, Zachariah P. “Reggie” Zachariah Jr., is an associate in Greenberg Traurig’s Fort Lauderdale office. In 2012, Gov. Scott appointed Reggie Zachariah to a four-year term on Broward’s Judicial Nominating Commission that expires in July.

Broward Health’s contract with Greenberg Traurig says that when conflicts of interest arise, the law firm will either obtain a written conflict waiver or, if the conflict can’t be waived, will recommend other counsel. It is not known whether Greenberg Traurig sought such a waiver from Broward Health regarding Zachariah.

Curiously, Foley & Lardner’s contract with Broward Health includes an “advance waiver of conflict” in which the hospital district agreed up front to allow the firm to represent “current or new clients in work directly adverse” to Broward Health. That includes “clients in contract negotiations adverse to the company.”

A plan takes shape to fix Miami-Dade’s CRAs

By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org 

FAU professor Frank Schnidman and Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella L. Cava

FAU professor Frank Schnidman and Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella L. Cava

Miami-Dade commissioners would take greater control of community redevelopment agencies under a proposal that would tighten oversight and reduce funding, yet also require many CRAs to set aside dollars for much-needed affordable housing they have yet to provide.

FloridaBulldog.org has obtained a copy of a resolution that’s making its way through county agencies. It is to be presented to Miami-Dade’s Economic Prosperity Committee on April 14 and to commissioners in May. Many of its remedies follow recommendations contained in February’s Miami-Dade Grand Jury report that found operating deficiencies among the 14 CRAS operating in the county, including little effort to develop affordable housing.

The proposal, however, is drawing criticism from a local CRA expert.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Frank Schnidman, a Florida Atlantic University professor with extensive knowledge of CRAs and how they should operate.

If adopted, the measures would apply to both new CRAs and existing ones that seek to extend or amend their 30-year terms.

Schnidman is opposed to the county granting CRAs any extensions unless they can demonstrate that they’ve been effective in their state-mandated mission of ridding “slum and blight” from within their limited boundaries. He also believes that newly approved CRAs should not receive county tax-increment funding. TIF funds, as they are known, are property tax dollars earmarked to some CRAs from increases in assessed land values within their designated district.

Extending the life of CRAs to finance new or existing projects transforms them into “economic development agencies,” whose purpose is other than eliminating slum and blight, said Schnidman. And CRAs already have demonstrated they have no desire to create much-needed affordable housing for poorer residents, he added.

Nevertheless, discussions are under way to extend the terms of two Miami CRAs – Omni, which hasn’t built any affordable housing, and Southeast Overtown Park West, which has – in order to back both proposed and existing projects.

If extended, the proposed Miami Marriott Marquis Hotel and Expo Center, the Miami Streetcar and Baylink could expect to receive CRA funding for debt service and/or operating and capital expenses. The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center stand to receive CRA dollars to cover similar expenses.

Most of those projects are “for the rich,” said Schnidman.

‘No real teeth’

The proposed county resolution would “have some effect but it has no real teeth,” Schnidman said. He noted, for instance, that while it seeks to address affordable housing, it would not require existing CRAs without a housing plan to adopt one. He was also critical because the proposal would continue to allow CRAs to issue bonds to support projects without voter approval.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella L. Cava proffered the resolution.

“I have created a proposal to deal with slum and blight and not just for developers,” she said. “We can’t do anything that is in violation of state law…state law does not require housing.

Cava noted that her resolution provides that there be a finding of “necessity” for approval of new CRAs, added she was interested in Schnidman’s suggestion that CRAs should have to show they have addressed slum and blight before they can get an extension or amendment to their term.

The Miami-Dade Grand Jury issued a scathing report in February about the operations of 14 CRAs that exist under an agreement with the County Commission. The grand jury said CRAs skirted the law’s intent with “overly broad interpretations” of definitions and requirements, by paying for inappropriate things like “fairs, carnivals and community entertainment;” and squandering “… large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of the elected officials.” Likewise, CRAS allocated a significant amount of funds “on salaries, benefits and other administrative costs.”

But the grand jury’s harshest criticism was aimed at the failure of CRAS to provide affordable housing in the blighted areas they were supposed to assist.

“Our investigation uncovered large scale spending on projects that did not address slum, blight or affordable housing … Evidence presented to us indicates that affordable housing is not a priority for many of the existing CRAs … (and) is almost non-existent.”

County leverage

The proposed resolution would declare the county’s intention to include the new provisions as a condition for approval for any new CRAs and for existing ones seeking extensions. The county has considerable leverage because it provides nearly half the tax-increment funds collected by the 14 CRAs: this year, $32 million in all.

Among the resolutions key provisions is a requirement that new and some existing CRAs have a housing component and a budget that annually includes funds for low, moderate and workforce housing. Existing CRAs without housing provisions in their plans may be able to circumvent the requirement, according to Schnidman.

In a measure aimed at widening CRA oversight, the county commission would appoint two members or designees to each CRA board. The county Inspector General’s Office would be given extensive authority to review all transactions of the CRAs, including actions that allegedly involve “fraud and/or corruption.”

CRAs also would be obliged to demonstrate the benefit of projects by holding a public hearing to consider how they will primarily benefit residents and business owners within the redevelopment area.

On the financial side, CRAs would be subject to a cap on administrative costs of 20 percent and new CRAs would not receive more than 50 percent of tax-increment collections unless commissioners approve a higher amount by a two-thirds vote.

CRA grants of $200,000 or more to community groups would have to primarily benefit residents in the redevelopment area. That would include hiring the labor force from workers within the redevelopment boundaries and allowing the county to recover funds not used for their intended purposes.

Likewise, CRAs would also be required to provide relocation assistance to individuals, families and businesses displaced by its projects. CRAs would also have to provide “one-for-one” replacement of affordable housing units they demolish, with those displaced having the right of first refusal to move back into affordable units.

New whistleblowers sue Plaza Health Network saying insiders milked nursing home chain

By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org 

Plaza Health Network's headquarters at 1800 NE 168th St., North Miami Beach.

Plaza Health Network’s headquarters at 1800 NE 168th St., North Miami Beach.

For the second time in four years, Miami Beach builder Russell Galbut and a nursing-home chain his family cofounded have been accused of illegal misconduct by a whistleblowing former executive.

This time the accuser is William Zubkoff, ex-CEO of Aventura-based Plaza Health Network. Zubkoff was a defendant in a 2012 whistleblower complaint against the non-profit company. Joyce Galbut, Zubkoff’s wife and Plaza’s former chief nursing officer, is also suing Russell Galbut and the non-profit.

In separate complaints filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the couple accuse Galbut, Plaza and it’s current board chairman, attorney Ronald Lowy, of milking non-profit Plaza Health to benefit themselves at the expense of the their elderly residents.

“Russell Galbut has paid himself, his relatives and…(certain) employees and consultants well over $100M,” says Zubkoff’s suit. “During that same time period, not-for-profit facilities have been closed, nurses and other employees have been fired, staffing ratios have been reduced, and appropriate pay raises for nurses and other employees have not been implemented.”

Similarly, Joyce Galbut’s complaint accuses Galbut and Lowy of “improperly and illegally” diverting funds from Plaza Health while presiding over “dramatic cuts affecting the quality of nursing care and using not for profit finances for private interests.”

Zubkoff and Joyce Galbut claim they fought to put a stop to the abuses and even notified federal authorities about what was happening. They also say they rejected Galbut and Lowy’s offers of “multi-year, 6-figure consulting agreements” in exchange for their silence. Both said they were fired within weeks of rejecting those offers.

The twin lawsuits seek damages for lost wages and emotional distress suffered after because of prohibited retaliation under Florida’s Private Sector Whistleblower’s Act.

Russell Galbut

Russell Galbut

Responding for Russell Galbut and himself, Lowy said Zubkoff and his wife are making a last-ditch effort for monetary gain by filing frivolous lawsuits. “We will fight this abuse of the judicial process in the most vigorous way possible,” Lowy said in an email to FloridaBulldog. “We will do everything in our power, including filing counterclaims if necessary, to put a stop to this.”

Jon Herskowitz, an attorney for Zubkoff and Joyce Galbut, whose ex-husband is Russell Galbut’s cousin, said his clients have the evidence to back up their accusations. “They would not be coming forward with these allegations if there was not significant proof over the years of what we consider not only improper illegal actions but various objections and complaints raised by Joyce Galbut and William Zubkoff,” Herskowitz said.

Plaza Health was founded 66 years ago as Hebrew Homes for the Aged, a convalescent home for Jewish people and war veterans. Today, the network operates seven nursing homes in Miami-Dade and counts former state Rep. Elaine Bloom as its president and CEO.

Galbut family founded Plaza Health

Members of the Galbut family have been involved with Plaza since its inception in 1950. Russell Galbut, a power broker in Miami Beach whose building portfolio includes the Alexander Hotel, the Castle Beach Club, 100 Lincoln Road, and the Shelbourne Hotel, joined Plaza’s board of directors in 1995. A year later, he was named chairman, a post he held until 2014.

Plaza’s board, at the time led by Galbut, hired Joyce Galbut in 2005 and Zubkoff in 2008, according to their lawsuits.

Last June, Plaza agreed to pay the U.S. government $17 million to settle allegations made in a 2012 federal lawsuit by the non-profit’s ex-Chief Financial Officer Stephen Beaujon. The complaint was also against Zubkoff. Using Beaujon’s claims, the Department of Justice found that Plaza had violated the False Claims Act by improperly paying doctors for referrals of Medicare patients requiring skilled nursing care.

“From 2006 through 2013, [Plaza] allegedly operated a sophisticated kickback scheme in which they hired numerous physicians ostensibly as medical directors pursuant to contracts that specified numerous job duties and hourly requirements,” according to a June 16, 2015 federal press release. “The United States alleged that in reality these were ghost positions, and that most of the medical directors were required to perform few, if any, of their contracted job duties.”

In his March 8 lawsuit, Zubkoff alleged that was essentially Galbut’s flunky during his tenure, and that the developer “completely controlled” both the board and Plaza Health’s management for more than two decades. Galbut used that control to pick his relatives and friendly employees and consultants from his other companies to sit on the non-profit’s board, the complaint alleges.

Three of Plaza’s five current directors have ties to Galbut: Lowy has represented the developer on some transactions, Joan Brent is his cousin, and Ben Rozsansky, is a former vice president of Galbut’s real estate firm, Crescent Heights.

“These decisions have always been made in the best personal financial interest of Russell Galbut,” Zubkoff’s complaint states. “Mr. Zubkoff states that he objected to and attempted to stop the illegal personal for-profit actions.”

For instance, Zubkoff claims, Galbut and his slate on the board forced the shutting of a 104-bed Miami Beach nursing home at 320 Collins Ave. in 2013 and then sold the property for $13.6 million to a New York developer a year later. In February of last year, FloridaBulldog.org reported how the board had initially agreed to sell the site to a private partnership that included Galbut, but that his partnership had submitted a lower offer than the top bidder, JMH Development.

When JMH threatened to sue Plaza, the board reversed course and sold the property to the Brooklyn-based company. Company documents obtained by a reporter and confirmed by Lowy say Plaza paid back a $2.5-million unsecured mortgage that Galbut had provided the non-profit. An additional $1 million was used to pay for a security deposit on another nursing home facility at 42 Collins Ave. that Plaza rents from Crescent.

Lowy told FloridaBulldog.org that Zubkoff is making false and outrageous statements. “Mr. Galbut always acted as a volunteer member of the Board and left the management of the Plaza Health Network to William Zubkoff and his management team,” Lowy said. “All of the Plaza records and emails reviewed by the U.S. Government in their 2014 and 2015 investigation support the conclusion that William Zubkoff was the decision maker and person whom all employees went to for authorization and decisions.”

Broward Health deal exposes ethics loopholes big enough for multi-million dollar deals

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, left, and Broward Health's late CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi

Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, left, and Broward Health’s late CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca was part of a “concerted campaign” to divert public Broward Health money to pay for a marketing effort run by his employer, Zimmerman Advertising.

Zimmerman had sought to convince Broward Health CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi that the district’s “budget was insufficient to do the marketing job that the district needed,” according to an independent special counsel’s report provided to the district on Wednesday.

LaMarca allegedly got so heavy-handed during the push to obtain a no-bid, $71.4-million advertising contract that he once threatened El Sanadi, whose Jan. 23 suicide triggered a series of disclosures about investigations and insider deals that have rocked the public hospital system.

“I put you here, and I can take you out,” LaMarca said, according to Broward Health Vice President Doris Peek, whose statements are contained in a report presented to Broward Health’s governing board on Wednesday.

LaMarca denies making such a threat.

“Having been raised by a good mother, the only way I can describe that woman [Peek] is that she was untruthful,” LaMarca said in an interview on Thursday.

LaMarca also denies lobbying Broward Health on Zimmerman’s behalf.

He takes that position because Broward’s Code of Ethics forbids elected officials, including county commissioners, from lobbying any governmental entities in Broward. The prohibition includes taxing authorities like the North Broward Hospital District, Broward Health’s legal name.

But there’s a loophole in Broward’s Code of Ethics big enough to drive multi-million dollar deals through. The loophole is even broader in state law, upon which the county based its 2011 ordinance.

The problem is in the definition of lobbyist. Lobbyists are generally thought of as people who seek to influence decisions made by government officials.

A narrow definition

Broward’s definition is considerably narrower. With some exceptions, it says a lobbyist is “a person who is retained, with or without compensation, for the purpose of lobbying, or a person who is employed by another person entity, on a full-time or part-time basis, principally to lobby on behalf of that other person or entity.”

Florida law’s definition of a lobbyist is even more limited. Lobbyists are persons who are paid to lobby, or are “principally employed” to lobby “by another person or governmental entity.”

Jordan Zimmerman

Jordan Zimmerman

Hired by Zimmerman last May, LaMarca held the title vice president of community relations, reporting directly to company founder Jordan Zimmerman. He has told a reporter, and the county attorney’s office while seeking a legal opinion about the matter, that his principal duty at Zimmerman wasn’t to lobby.

Thus, LaMarca’s not legally a lobbyist even though he acknowledged representing Zimmerman in talks about an advertising deal with Broward Health officials.

Specifically, LaMarca told both a reporter and the Fort Lauderdale law firm that reported to Broward Health’s board this week that he had attended a series of meetings about the advertising deal with Broward Health representatives over several months, including parts of “shade” meetings that are closed to the public. He also said he’d invited all seven board members to tour Zimmerman’s swank Cypress Creek offices, including three who accepted.

“According to LaMarca, the purpose of these tours was educational and no specifics of any marketing plan were discussed,” says the report by attorney Mitchell Berger.

The report goes on to say LaMarca assisted Jordan Zimmerman with a June 25, 2015 fundraiser for then-Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro’s wife, County Court Judge Nina Di Pietro.

LaMarca ‘advocated’ for Zimmerman?

“We have been advised that Mr. LaMarca advocated on Zimmerman’s behalf, although Mr. LaMarca denies this,” Berger wrote. Yet even if LaMarca advocated for Zimmerman, and it “occurred in the course of his employment by Zimmerman, he would not constitute a ‘lobbyist’ under the district’s policy.”

Berger’s report to the board said he’d been unable to locate “any lobbying registrations related to the Zimmerman contract.”

As FloridaBulldog.org has reported, however, Broward Health does not require lobbyists to register.

A state governmental accountability bill that would have required hospital districts, children’s services districts and expressway authorities to register lobbyists died during the legislative session that ended March 11.

LaMarca quit his job with Zimmerman on March 25. He said he did so in order to speak with Berger during the lawyer’s investigation. Zimmerman’s lawyer didn’t want him speaking because Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel is reviewing Zimmerman’s $2.1-million marketing contract with Broward Health, an agreement that was to be amended by the proposed $71.4-million deal.

“I liked working for Zimmerman. It was a great place,” said LaMarca. “My regret is that Jordan Zimmerman ever met Dr. El Sanadi or got that contract.”

Broward Health’s Republican board fires recently hired law firm of Democratic fundraiser

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward Health's board during Wednesday's invocation

Broward Health’s board during Wednesday’s invocation

Five weeks after hiring a Fort Lauderdale law firm to help it respond to a state review of its contracts, Broward Health’s governing board reversed course Wednesday and fired the firm.

Mitchell Berger and the Berger Singerman law firm were axed in a 4-1 vote that appeared to dance around the true reason for the change: partisan politics.

As the two-time finance chair of the Florida Democratic Party and co-chair of the National Finance Council of the National Democratic Committee for almost three years, Berger is one of Broward County’s best-known Democratic fund raisers. His hiring by Broward Health’s Republican board – all appointed by Gov. Rick Scott – did not go unnoticed in the Governor’s Office in Tallahassee.

Berger was singled out for criticism in a letter from the Inspector General to Gov. Scott that resulted in the suspension of two commissioners on March 18.

“It’s clear I’m becoming an issue,” Berger told commissioners during a 3½ hour meeting during which the words Republican and Democrat were not uttered.

He offered a list of well-connected Republican lawyers as his replacement, including former Florida Senate President Jim Scott of the Fort Lauderdale-based Tripp Scott law firm, former state Republican Chair Al Cardenas and former Miami U.S. Attorney Roberto Martinez. Berger didn’t recommend a single Democrat.

Commissioner Joel Gustafson appeared to agree.

“Maybe we need someone politically more favored,” said Gustafson, a long-time Republican activist and former GOP House member.

Fired for being a Democrat?

But no one said flatly that Berger was being fired for being a Democrat, including him.

Both Gustafson and Berger were referring to the board’s intention to send a delegation to Tallahassee to meet with Scott’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel in hopes of reigning in the scope of her “review” of the district’s contracts – an inquiry that expanded recently into a demand for records about executive personnel, reported conflicts of interest and behind-the-scenes lobbying practices.

Berger sought to organize such a meeting but was refused. Instead, Miguel accused Berger Singerman of interfering with her review and recommended that suspensions of former Chairman David Di Pietro and Commissioner Darryl Wright. Gov. Scott suspended both men for “malfeasance” within hours of that recommendation on March 18.

The same day, Berger wrote a letter to Miguel that accused her of being “intent upon destroying the very concept of a community-owned and operated public healthcare system.”

In an interview Wednesday, Berger said the letter wasn’t sent to Miguel because the board hadn’t approved it. The letter was, however, included in reports Berger twice gave to commissioners at meetings this week and last week.

The letter was written amid talk among district insiders of a push by the governor to privatize both of Broward’s public hospital systems – Broward Health and Memorial Healthcare. It doesn’t address that talk, but instead goes after Miguel, whose job is to promote public trust in government and “to assist the Executive Office of the Governor in the accomplishment of its objectives,” according to her office’s most recent annual report.

Wednesday’s meeting also included discouraging financial news about the independent special taxing district.

Chief Financial Officer Arthur Wallace reported that Broward Health’s year-to-date loss from operations is $108.1 million, about $8 million worse than projected. Wallace described an operational loss of $9.1 million in February as $3.1 million better than expected.

Broward Health, while suffering recent credit rating downgrades, reported a year-to-date deficiency of $59.2 million, significantly more than the budgeted amount of $51.3 million.

Expenses exceeded revenue by $4 million in February.

Tired of problems, Fort Lauderdale audits its community redevelopment agencies

By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org cralogo

Fed up with project failures, management problems and possible city overcharges, Fort Lauderdale commissioners have ordered an extensive audit of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agencies.

In a little-noted action, commissioners directed the audit of three CRAs at a conference meeting earlier this year.

The audit was triggered by the million-dollar failure of the Sixth Street Plaza project. Some commissioners expressed additional concerns about the findings of a city auditor’s report on CRAs that they said indicate the city had unfairly overcharged the CRAs for services during the past five years.

Commissioners ordered “a full audit” of the Northwest/Progresso/Flagler Heights (NWP) Community Redevelopment Agency, the Central Beach (CB) CRA and the Central City (CC) CRA, City Auditor John Herbst said in an interview. He said the audit, now under way, may be completed in two months.

Herbst said the audit was undertaken because the city wants to get in front of the matter, knowing the Broward Inspector General’s Office has been investigating CRAs around the county for some time.

Herbst said he expects the audit to determine whether CRA spending was “in compliance with state law and CRA bylaws,” and whether the CRAs were properly managed and contracts adhered to the CRAs’ limitations.

“We want to make sure money was spent in accordance with governing legislation,” Herbst said. The audit will cover the past three years – a reasonable time period, the auditor added.

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Robert McKinzie

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Robert McKinzie

Herbst said the troubled Sixth Street Plaza project is a key factor in the ongoing audit. Last May, the city auditor’s office criticized the CRA for poor oversight of a taxpayer-supported office and retail plaza that was to be the centerpiece of the city’s ambitious plans to revitalize the Sistrunk Boulevard corridor.

But the 23,000-square-foot building at 900 NW Sixth St. filed for bankruptcy, jeopardizing the repayment of $1 million in taxpayer loans.

Following that finding, Vice Mayor Robert McKinzie’s staff asked Herbst in a memo to conduct “a complete audit of the day to day operations of the CRA.” Herbst said Mayor Jack Seiler and his fellow commissioners backed the call for the audit in a consensus vote during a city commission conference meeting in January.

‘Inconsistent leadership’

Herbst said the city’s CRAs have had problems because of frequent management shuffling. “There was inconsistent leadership due to transfers,” he said.

A report by his office noted that the Northwest/Progresso/Flagler Heights CRA, in a less-affluent area, was charged $1.7 million for city services over the past five years, while the Central Beach CRA, in a wealthier area, was charged $909,000 during that same period.

The finding upset City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, who said an “excessive amount of money is charged for administration, denying the neighborhood that is suffering blight and neglect and so much money being used for staff.”

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis

Trantalis said he has asked City Manager Lee Feldman about correcting CRA allocation issues, but “he hasn’t been responding. We need to change the practice. We discovered that the city manager, to shore up the budget, has been attributing staff time to the CRA.”

Feldman did not respond to requests for comment before deadline after promising to make himself available for an interview.

At the city commission meeting in January, others expressed their concern about the auditor’s findings.

Minutes of the meetings say McKinzie “questioned why such a large portion of funds was allocated [to] the [Northwest/Progresso/Flagler Heights] CRA for administration and resources when the CRA did not have a director.”

Commissioner Bruce Roberts suggested the matter be referred to the State Attorney’s Office or some other investigative agency for a criminal probe.

“Many feel CRA funds have been drained for administrative services, and there is a lopsided disparity,” Trantalis said at the January meeting. The mayor and the city’s four commissioners also serve as directors of the CRAs.

Problems found

Herbst’s audit report mainly delved into the current fiscal year salary allocations of the two CRA offices, Northwest/Progresso/Flagler Heights and Central Beach. But it found problems.

“The method used to allocate personnel costs may lead to excessive General Fund expenses being allocated to the CRA, a violation of Florida Statute 163.370(3)(c),” the report stated. The state provision prohibits the tax-increment funds that CRAs receive from covering general government operating expenses unrelated to planning and carrying out a CRA plan.

The report goes on, “We determined that the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) and the Budget Office were not able to provide adequate support for the percentages used for personnel cost allocations to/from the CRA fund and the sub-funds. Additionally, they are allocating charges to the CRA for personnel positions which are vacant for either a portion of the fiscal year or the entire fiscal year.

“The budgeted allocations are then charged to the CRA throughout the year without reconciling those estimates to actual costs incurred, resulting in an excess of allocation over actual cost,” according to the report.

The faulty allocations can negatively impact the CRAs’ ability to achieve their goals, the report aid.

The city charged the CRAs for hours city employees spent working on agency matters.

In one instance, the report said the Northwest/Progresso/Flagler Heights CRA was “overcharged” $30,000, which should have been charged to the Central Beach CRA. That happened after an employee was promoted from assistant to the city manager to the position of economic and business development manager in charge of the Central Beach CRA. For three months, he was paid from funds allocated to a vacant position in the Northwest/Progresso/Flagler Heights CRA, the report said.

A correction was later made, but “the prior overcharging was not corrected timely” and ate into how much funding was available to meet the CRA’s goals.

Since the report, the city has begun making changes.

Trantalis said in an interview that city commissioners have removed the CRAs from reporting to the Department of Sustainable Development and made them separate entities with their own managers to oversee day-to-day operations. State law requires CRAs to operate independently of other departments.

City Manager Feldman, however, will continue to function as executive director of the CRAs.

Other changes call for improved financial oversight from the city finance director and the city auditor, identifying a separate CRA funding and accounting structure, and allocating additional funds for the two CRAs to implement changes during the current fiscal year.

Broward Health lawyer: Gov. Scott’s IG “intent upon destroying” public healthcare system

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward Health Special Legal Counsel Mitchell Berger at a Feb. 17 board meeting

Broward Health Special Legal Counsel Mitchell Berger at a Feb. 17 board meeting

An attorney hired by Broward Health to assist in responding to a state review of the district’s contracts has accused Gov. Rick Scott’s chief inspector general of being “intent upon destroying the very concept of a community-owned and operated public healthcare system.”

The March 18 letter by Special Legal Counsel Mitchell Berger was written amid talk among district insiders of a push by the governor to privatize both of Broward’s public hospital systems – Broward Health and Memorial Healthcare.

Berger’s letter to Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel doesn’t address the governor’s possible privatization plans. It does, however, question the integrity of Miguel, whose job is to promote public trust in government and “to assist the Executive Office of the Governor in the accomplishment of its objectives,” according to her office’s most recent annual report.

Berger expressed his disappointment with Miguel’s recommendation to the governor that he suspend Broward Health Board Chairman David Di Pietro and Commissioner Darryl Wright for possible interference with her review. The governor suspended the pair within hours, citing “malfeasance.”

The letter recounted how Miguel’s recommendation followed votes by the board, including Di Pietro and Wright, to replace interim CEO Kevin Fusco in the face of criticism from senior managers of a leadership crisis that was “threatening the ability of Broward Health to provide basic services to its patients.” Likewise, the board put Broward Health’s controversial general counsel, Lynn Barrett, on a 30-day performance plan following complaints that patient care was threatened by a backlog in processing various contracts.

The moves to replace Fusco and upbraid Barrett were intended to restore “confidence and trust,” Berger wrote. “These efforts have now undermined by your misdirected recommendation that the leadership of the board of commissioners be suspended.”

melindamiguelMiguel’s office referred reporters to Gov. Scott for comment. Scott’s spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante released this statement, “The Chief Inspector General’s investigation into this matter is ongoing. We will continue to review any relevant materials regarding the investigation.”

Broward Health’s board meets again on Wednesday. It is widely expected that commissioners will move to fire Berger and his Fort Lauderdale firm, Berger Singerman.

Berger Singerman was hired Feb. 24 to help the district’s internal auditor, Vinnette Hall, deal with the Miguel’s review due to criticism of Barrett. While those in the meeting audience that day, including district auditor KPMG, welcomed the move, the law firm’s relationship with Miguel quickly went off the rails.

‘A covert investigation’?

According to Berger, Miguel’s office initially contacted Hall to arrange interviews with Broward Health employees. “But in recent weeks you have circumvented that orderly process and are interviewing Broward Health employees without contacting Ms. Hall, giving the impression that you are conducting a covert investigation rather than a review, in direct contradiction to your assertions.”

Miguel expanded her request for documents beyond contracts to “subjects not limited to the board’s oversight responsibilities” on March 15. At Berger’s urging, the board gave to the OK to have a delegation request a meeting with Miguel to discuss her requests to avoid having to produce “thousands of documents that are likely irrelevant to the scope” of her review.

“You refused to grant us this meeting, and instead sought the suspension of the audit chair (Darryl Wright) and have now accused our firm of interfering with your review,” Berger said.

Berger went on to tell Miguel that Gov. Scott “has no jurisdiction over the operations of the North Broward Hospital District, nor the activities of its managers.” Nevertheless, Miguel has demanded the production of “thousands of contracts, procurement arrangements and other agreements” including the personnel records of Broward Health employees, while failing to provide specifics about what Di Pietro or Wright did that demanded suspension, Berger said.

“Although you have made pointed accusations that members of the board have acted improperly, you would deprive the board of its right to hire counsel to advise it in the face of what has every appearance of being nothing more than an attempt to disrupt Broward Health,” Berger wrote.

“Unfortunately, it is the patients and the public who stand to suffer.”

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