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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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Latest comments

  • It has been clear since this hospital’s birth that the quasi privaite-taxpayer funded hospital model doesn’t work.

    If it is a community hospital for the indigent, then it should focus on that only.

    Serving the poor and also trying to operate and market itself like a private for profit is a huge conflict of interest that has been baked in from the start.

    The fact that a governor and the state is making decisions at a local hospital is the problem. It’s a problem that was created long before Rick Scott came along.

    If this model is to continue then prosecutors need to start prosecuting some people for corruption and fraud.

    We know there has been fraud at the hospital, yet no one has gone to jail.

    Throw a few of the corrupt doctors or hospital executives in the Broward County Jail and you will see a change.

  • NOTHING new here. All of this known a long time ago. Did not need to cost more legal fees etc. Folks, if you want change, then show up at every board meeting and take advantage of the 3 minutes each of you have to voice your objections, and start impeachment proceedings against Slick Dick Scott. Stop blogging and instead take more affirmative action. I have attended 3 board meetings in the past 6 months with hardly any other community resident being present. You can blog to your hearts content but you will not be heard and your anger will not be clear until they see your faces and hear your voices en mass! Only then might they realize it is better to play ball with the residents of this community than the devil incarnate.

  • Wednesday, March 30, 2016

    Regular Board Meeting 4:00 pm Location: Corporate Office –4:00 p.m.

    Location: Spectrum 1700 NW 49 Street, Fort Lauderdale 33309

  • Qui Tam- thanks for posting, continue to publicize that, it makes a difference. I will be looking into the equivalent forum for Memorial system.

  • Marcus Welby, I agree, but I also have never seen this degree of bad behavior (putting it nicely) before, and I expect it is only due in part to increased social media forums. I concur with qui tam that the residents of this community should attend all board meetings, take advantage of their three minute right to voice their opinions and objections, make it clear to these bureaucrats that they are not going to tolerate it any longer, and remember each of them at election time. Ousting Scott is an awesome idea. The man is a crook! As for board meeting attendance, it would be very intimidating for hundreds of concerned citizens to pile in, never mind disruptive to the agenda that is prediscussed and perhaps can only change through visualization of a room full of ticked off tax supporting residents.

  • While you’re looking at employee files, also take a look at Dionne Wong, the SVP Human Resources. She’s famous for never showing up to work, and/or firing people for no good reason, oh and signing contracts she never admits to. I watch it happen every day. Also, her puppet Denise Morris. I can never get an appointment with that poor excuse of a director. She lies and tells employees to leave Broward Health if they aren’t happy. That is not what we want to hear. We want support!!! Get rid of the top idiots and start fresh from the outside. YES, PRIVATIZE THIS PLACE AND BRING US BACK TO SOME SORT OF NORMALCY!!!

  • Scott will destroy BH if allowed. He has a history and it’s not pretty.

  • Scott is trying to destabilize BH, acting through the Commission of flunked. David Di Pietro was leader of this team of Scott acolytes until The investigation started to uncover evidence that Di Pietro had corrupt intent by interference on contracts which he wanted for his friends. Have you ever asked why Zimmerman and Di Pietro were so close. It goes beyond Chip LaMarca to Nina Di Pietro and her “relationship ” with Z

  • Broward Health is an outdated model. It is time for it to go. The North Broward Hospital District was created before the days of Medicare and Medicaid. Each Broward Health Hospital and Clinic should be converted to a pure 501(c)(3) not for profit, charitable corporation. They should be like Holy Cross Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic, two of the finest healthcare facilities in Broward County. It is time for Broward County to enter the 21st Century. The local political class will never do it. It is up to the Governor to act like a leader and get the job done. The taxpayer assisted days are over!

  • Well it may well be that when Dr. El Sanadi killed himself, he also killed the deal.

    I saw a BH billboard tonight northbound on the turnpike just north of Commercial. It read “Quitting is not an option.” It made me wonder whether the Zimmerman agency came up with that one. Personally, I don’t think it’s too good of a line for a BH marketing campaign. I already know that no matter what hospital I go to, nurses and doctors dont just quit on patients. To suggest that health care professionals in any district quit on patients and yours doesn’t is a bad approach. I thought the BH commercials with Ryan Tannehill were good ads and better than what BH is doing now.

    But what I found most wierd about the “Quitting is not an option” is the irony of it with respect to the many hard working health care professionals at BH. I’m sure many of you feel trapped and perhaps Dr El Sanadi literally took that ad line to heart and as

  • Anyone who objects to quasi-public hospitals based on the mess made of Broward Health is flatly wrong. You only need to look south of Griffin Road to the South Florida Hospital District, which consistently runs smoothly and efficiently and at minimal cost to taxpayers. All it takes is a commitment to the health of our citizens instead of political gamesmanship.

  • All of this blogging is missing one fine point. What has happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars that BH had in the bank? To whom has the money been funneled, were proper bidding processes followed, and was it at reasonable or fair market value? A $71m no bid advertising contract is not. That is but one example. So hypothesize till the cows come home about which system is outdated or best but in the mean time don’t lose focus of the fraudulent waste slapping us all in the pocket and face!

  • Question— If Pauline Grant is the new messiah, why did she have legions of her sorority sisters show up at the last board meeting to support her. Can’t she stand on her own. Will this be an ongoing occurance, if she doesn’t get her way?

    Ps.. I got new job. More money, better schedule and a sign on bonus. Two weeks and I am outta here. Thanks for the advice Qui Tam.
    One happy ER nurse.

  • Eye ya yai
    Seriously.
    eye on the ball
    You that want to privatize or go the way of the 501(c)(3) right? Which law firm are you with? You certainly are not looking out for BH. Where are 100’s of millions of dollars that have been funneloed to dear old RS friends???
    Now that Rocky and Ure are incharge BH is in for a world of hurt. Rocky is the governors pet Ure is the yes person.
    As for Dion she’s between a rock and a hard place. I agree Denice Morris is useless with an overly exagerated sence of professionalism and a bad liar.
    You all should be concentrating on El Sinadi (RIP) Kevin Fusco, Lori Peralman, Lynn Barret these four have done more harm to BH than any of the recently mentioned. They have put their own wealth and well being well before the systems mission and vision. Liars and not qualified for thier well paying positions.
    Bring on the Feds, Take out Rick Scott arrest Melinda investigate the relationship between Lynn Barret Rick Scott Melinda Miguel and the external law firms shes funneling millions of dollars to on behalf of Rick Scott. Investigate why Fusco turned a blind eye and actually gave several no bid contracts to the govenors friends. Before you crucify Di Piedro understand he stopped the Zimmerman contract from a 71 million deal to a measly 5 million contract. Dipietro is a super star and like Brian Bravo Bob Martin and Calvin Glidwell has been defamed and slandered by our ilustrious BH senior leaders and the govenor.
    Ms Grant I wish you much success only you can save the system. At the first hint of presure from Rocky, the govenor or general council please wear a wire and share with the feds. Im sure they all will look great in stripes or orange.
    This is a well orchestrated plan by the govenor to unfund the system bring all contracts and services to a halt and have the system implode under its own weight. Then RS can sell it to his buddies for pennies on the dollar and cut out the competition. The south district doesn’t have this issue because they had Frank Saco forever as thier CEO and they dont have HCA Tenet, Holy Cross or Baptist in thier back yard. But they also dont have Las Olas Weston CooperCity or any of the upscale neighborhoods, otherwise they also would have been under constant atack as the North District has been. I wonder which of the super paks all this money is being sent to?
    Buckle up boys this is going to be a bumpy ride.

  • PS Broward Health Doc, Dr No and Marcus Welby are not Docs no doc writes such inacurate sentences at a fifth grade level. Love how these RS supportes try to cover up the truth with mud slinging, lies and inuendos. PS whats your specialty BS, FoS, lobbyist or legal eagles (LE) working at BH?

    Speaking of Lobbyist I wonder what BH lobbiest are doing these days? Guese not much because there has been no repreive from the govenors office.

    Wish I could make the board meeting tomorrow.

  • Hey DeathThrows,

    Fith grade level grade level?

    Doctor is not a proper noun. It should not be capitalized. Almost every sentence you wrote is incomplete.

    “Whats?” You are missing an apostrophe.

    PS is actually P.S. It means post scriptum and you are supposed to use it at the end of what you are writing, not at the beginning.

    If you learn these things, you’ll may make it to my 5th grade level.

  • Congratulations Ineed! I wish you great success and happiness. You took action when opportunity was rich, and you stood strong. You are a role model for other clinical and non-clinical staff at BH. Way to go! Let go of the ugliness and move on to a healthier and happier place!!!

  • As for infighting amongst the bloggers, I believe most any person can clearly see there have been no saints amongst this cast of characters. Sure, some have been slimier than others, but all were on the take to some degree. Yes, DDP and DW began to pull away when Scotty boy upped the ante and crossed their line of amoral behavior. But DDP was happy for his wife to be appointed as a judge by Scotty boy, as El Sanadi was happy to be appointed Chair of the Board of Medicine. El Sanadi and DDP also supported the initial no bid $5M Zimmerman contract unless I misunderstood that. This said, up for bat come Ure, Rodriguez, and Van Hoose. This assuredly has upped the slimy ante, on par with Barrett who is well known Amiga of Scotty boy. Let’s not forget Doris Peek, who succeeded
    in carrying off a CYA maneuver re: Zimmerman but demands take back of BH from tax supporting and concerned residents of this community, or was that “angry bloggers?” Dysfunction, and some of the misguided intentions are further carried out throughout the c-suite, HR, and even the Compliance departments although I sense the wake up call may finally have come to hit a few of them like a sledge hammer on the head. Bottom line is Scotty boy is pilfering hundreds of millions of dollars from BH, forcing financial collapse, while making himself and his friends millions of dollars, and landing the system into the hands of his friends most likely at HCA. If you’ve never worked at HCA East, if not Tenet. Neither of these companies are highly regarded go their treatment of their employees or for their quality of care. And neither has not been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, each having paid fines for schemes far in excess of BH. No, Scotty boy. Privatization is not in the consumers best interest.

  • II was reading an article re: discussion between El Sanadi and a board mbr for MHS. Two quotes from the article were “They were basically talking about how to screw over Frank Sacco in his last few months,” and “He was basically educating her on how to rule over the board.” So was El Sanadi attempting to carry out Slick Scott’s ultimate plan to take down ALL public health systems in Fl, including the back door ambush of MHS, which has a stellar financial and performance history far exceeding that of his precious for profit cronies like HCA and Tenet who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for fraud??? Yes qui tam. Privatization is clearly not the answer but assuredly apoears to be the intent, and now not limited to the dysfunctional BH but to the highly functional MHS which he failed to take down previously. This jerk of a gov does need to be impeached!!

  • Let’s take the high road, my friends. Let’s move Broward County out of the minors, and into the major leagues. The Mayo Clinic is a 501(c)(3)! Johns Hopkins Medical Center is a 501(c)(3)! MD Anderson Cancer Center is a 501(c)(3)! All of the finest hospitals in America a free standing, not for profit, charitable corporations! They do not receive taxpayer support. Don’t the people of Broward County deserve the best? Think about it. Perhaps Broward Health’s Hospitals should be donated to the Mayo Clinic! Hmmm… I wonder if they would accept them.

  • Far better choice than HCA or Tenet!

  • It is a far better choice, but the pilfering of her hundreds of millions of dollars in the mean time remains inexcusable and those responsible need to be held accountable, not the tax supporting citizens. It is nothing more than displacement of “wasteful spending,” as the gov would say, I to his and his friends hands. That money needs to be returned. The citizens of this county have already paid BH’s $69.5m fine for acts of fraud.

  • Please look at the most recent blog to a BH mgr from me and qui tam on the Zimmerman blog. Without repeating myself, it is quite the example of the leadership at BH, and it says it all about their regard for the concerned citizens who tirelessly blog to keep the spotlight on these issues in order to save and improve BH. Just disgraceful that a mgr representing BH has the sheer audacity to speak to the citizens of this community that way! Well dear, that’s the final nail in coffin. I will NEVER come to a BH physician of faculty for care EVER again! Your new CEO can thank you for that!

  • Dr No. You are not a doctor. You are one of Rick Scott’s men. You are pathetically transparent!

  • Does anyone know if the report Berger made the other day absolving the board is available online anywhere? How would I go about getting a copy? Thanks!

  • Good question RL. I too would like to read that letter absolving the BOC. I would not be surprised if they colored just inside the line of legality, though well outside the line of what many would consider politically unbiased and ethical! Still hoping bulldog will deep dive into the Zimm/Lemieux/Scott relationship and what their roles/intentions/actions are/have been.

  • Berger is such a putz. Too bad Al Gore didn’t win. Then maybe his little schlocky local law firm might have been able to hire some decent attorneys and play with the the big boys.

  • Count Choco. The only one caught up in all of this mess who is not a putz is Berger. He is the only one thus far that has shown any class at all. Next are you going to tell us you are a Rick Scott supporter, a total shmuck who shown the entire US just what an arse he is?

  • Oh, that’s right, Mitch isn’t a putz. I was mistaking him for his buck toothed brother James, a legend in his own mind. Mitch is just a philandering jack ass. And also a legend in his own mind.

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