By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
As Gov. Rick Scott and hundreds of others paid their final respects Friday to Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, Broward Health’s late president, Florida’s chief inspector general quietly opened a wide-ranging investigation into how the hospital district hands out millions of dollars in contracts.
“I have received Governor Scott’s full support to conduct a thorough review of every contract North Broward Hospital District/Broward Health has entered into since July 1, 2012 and all correspondence, in any form, related to these contracts,” Chief Inspector General Melinda M. Miguel said in a Jan. 29 letter to district chairman David Di Pietro.
“The purpose of the review is to determine any possible improprieties or inappropriate actions including any violation of law, rule, regulation, charter, bylaws or procedures associated with these contracts,” Miguel wrote.
The letter says the probe of taxpayer-supported Broward Health was begun based on “reported allegations,” but it does not elaborate. Miguel, who reports directly to Gov. Scott, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
FloridaBulldog.org also has confirmed the FBI is conducting a separate, though possibly overlapping criminal investigation into allegations of corruption in Broward Health’s purchasing department. Details were not immediately available.
“The FBI does not confirm/deny the existence of an investigation,” said Miami FBI spokesman James Marshall.
State, fed probes are newest blows to Broward Health
News of the state and federal probes are the latest blows to the county’s largest and most troubled safety-net hospital system. Last September, Broward Health paid more than $69.5 million to settle federal whistleblower allegations that for more than a decade its administrators and doctors had conspired in an illegal kickback scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid.
El Sanadi’s shocking death – he shot himself in a public restroom at his Lauderdale-by-the-Sea condominium on Jan. 23 – led to an immediate outpouring of affection for a man described as both a compassionate physician and a dedicated leader. Friends and acquaintances, however, have been unable to explain why the Egyptian-born El Sanadi would commit suicide.
Broward Health’s board – appointed by Republican Gov. Scott – hired El Sanadi 14 months ago to replace Frank Nask. El Sanadi had little executive experience, but he and his wife, Lori, were sizable contributors to Scott’s 2014 re-election – giving a total of $16,000 to the governor’s campaign and his Let’s Get to Work political action committee. El Sanadi gave another $36,529 to the Republican Party of Florida Over in 2014.
El Sanadi arrived amid what was then a mostly secret, yet intense whistleblower investigation that had surfaced in May 2011 when U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agents subpoenaed Broward Health records about its contracts with more than two dozen doctors. Broward Health ultimately produced millions of documents.
El Sanadi played a key role in negotiations that led to the settlement. Indeed, at last Wednesday’s board meeting a clearly emotional chairman Di Pietro told the audience that El Sanadi was responsible saving Broward Health millions by relentlessly chipping away at the government’s demands.
Last August, Broward Health’s seven-member board voted unanimously to bring an end to the embarrassing investigation by agreeing to pay the $69.5 million and accept the imposition of tough new ethics rules over five years. The payout was atop another $10.2 million paid to an out-of-state law firm for legal advice about how to deal with the probe.
The settlement was a relief to both the board and El Sanadi.
“This is just a resolution of something that’s been on the table for the last four or give years and goes back as far as 2001. It’s always good to get things like this over with,” El Sanadi told FloridaBulldog.org after the deal was made public on Sept. 15.
The inspector general’s letter to Di Pietro notes that state law imposes a duty to cooperate on every state officer and employee, agency and special district – Broward Health is an independent special taxing district that collected $140 million in property taxes in 2015.
Likewise, Broward Health was asked to identify a contact to act as a liaison. Broward Health’s internal auditor is Vinnette Hall.