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Broward Health: Lawyers, lawyers everywhere and taxpayers to foot the bill

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward Health Medical Center, the Fort Lauderdale flagship of the North Broward Hospital District

Lawyers for fired Broward Health chief executive Pauline Grant filed a pair of public records requests on the district in May that they believed might shed light on her sudden dismissal last December.

Six months later, Broward Health hasn’t produced a single requested document in response.

Florida’s Public Records Act provides that records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business “are open for personal inspection and copying by any person,” unless specifically exempted by the Legislature.

The North Broward Hospital District – Broward Health’s legal name – hasn’t asserted any exemptions. Instead, the independent taxing district is waging an unusual legal fight that continues to delay the release of those records while sticking taxpayers with the mounting bill.

That legal tab is sure to climb even higher. Besides the two outside law firms Broward Health has hired in the public records case – the Miami firms of Foley & Lardner and Zumpano Castro – the district has retained a string of additional high-profile lawyers, including more from Foley, to represent individual defendants in related civil litigation brought by Grant. Here are some of those lawyers and their Broward Health clients:

  • Scott Richardson of West Palm Beach for Interim CEO (and former board member) Beverly Capasso. Richardson’s clients have included Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
  • Roberto Martinez and Stephanie Casey of the Coral Gables law firm Colson Hicks Eidson for General Counsel Lynn Barrett. Martinez is a well-known Republican and former U.S. Attorney.
  • Bruce Lyons of Fort Lauderdale for board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez. Lyons is a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
  • Andrew Levi of Miami’s Lehr, Levi & Mendez for board member Christopher Ure.
  • Eric Adams and Mark Rankin of the Tampa office of Shutts & Bowen for Commissioner Linda Robison. Like Adams and Rankin, Robison is a partner at Shutts & Bowen.

It is the Public Records Act lawsuit, however, that is moving the most swiftly and could yield insight into one of Broward Health’s most controversial arenas, its legal department. General Counsel Barrett is scheduled for deposition in the case on Nov. 15.

Broward Health’s board voted 4-1 to fire Grant last Dec. 1 at a hastily arranged meeting where Barrett disclosed she had hired “independent” lawyers to investigate the allegations of illegality.

Barrett told the board that lawyers from Nashville, TN.-based Waller Lansden, Dortch & Davis had concluded that Grant committed “a probable violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute,” which would be a crime.

An ‘independent’ warning

No details about the investigation were provided that day, but another “independent” attorney, Jack Selden of Birmingham, AL.-based Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, warned of potential civil and criminal fallout and advised the district to take “appropriate actions.”

A lawyer’s report detailing the case against Grant was later forwarded to federal monitors overseeing Broward Health’s compliance with a Corporate Integrity Agreement. The agreement was signed two years ago as part of its $69.5-million settlement of whistleblower allegations that the district paid kickbacks to nine doctors who referred patients to its hospitals in a decade-long scheme.

Clockwise from upper left: Broward Health Commissioners Christopher Ure and Linda Robison, board Chair Rocky Rodriguez and CEO Beverly Capasso

But as Florida Bulldog reported at the end of October, the two law firms were not independent. Both Waller Lansden and the Bradley firm had deep, undisclosed ties to Gov. Rick Scott, who oversees Broward Health and appoints its board of commissioners.

Within weeks of her dismissal, Grant sued the board, asking a judge to void her termination, reinstate her and declare that the board had violated the Sunshine Law. The case is pending.

On May 12, Grant sued again – this time for breach of contract. The case is also pending.

The same day, two of Grant’s Fort Lauderdale attorneys, Eugene Pettis and Mitchell Berger, filed separate public records requests seeking a variety of information including email, telephone and text messages between Barrett, board members and administrators; contracts; schedules, and communications with “anyone” at the Waller Landsen and Bradley firms.

Grant, Pettis and Berger, represented by Berger’s law firm Berger Singerman, sued Broward Health to enforce the Public Records Act on Aug. 2. The 16-page suit asked Judge Michael A. Robinson to order the district to produce the records.

“Notwithstanding the Waller Firm’s conclusion that Grant engaged in probably violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute…The Grant report made no mention of records highly relevant to any legitimate investigation arriving at such a conclusion,” the lawsuit says.

Broward Health not to blame

In an answer a month later, private attorneys hired by Broward Health blamed Grant and her attorneys for any delay in obtaining the records. In fact, they said, the district was prevented from complying because the plaintiffs failed to provide additional requested “information and/or clarification” needed to determine what exemptions were applicable and how much those records should cost.

“Defendant has not refused to provide access to plaintiffs of requested public records,” says the Sept. 5 filing by Zumpano

Castro attorney Robert H. Fernandez. “Defendant has only sought to comply with its obligations under the Public Records Act and has been thwarted in that effort by plaintiffs’ actions and/or inactions.”

Fernandez’s co-counsel is William E. Davis of Foley & Lardner, a firm with strong ties to Gov. Scott.

In an unusual move, Foley lawyers are now seeking to disqualify Berger Singerman – a firm with strong Democratic Party ties – and partner Paul Figg from representing Grant and her lawyers in the public records lawsuit. In a 288-page filing, they argue that because Berger Singerman has represented Broward Health in the past, the firm shouldn’t be allowed to “switch sides” and now represent Grant against the district.

“This is a clear violation of the rules regulating the Florida Bar regarding conflicts of interest and constitutes a violation of Berger Singerman’s duties of loyalty and confidentiality,” says the motion filed by Foley lawyers William E. Davis and Brandon Williams.

At an Oct. 31 hearing, Berger suggested the move to disqualify his firm was a red herring to delay the production of records about Grant’s firing.

“They hired Bradley Arant and the Waller law firm to accuse her of a crime so they could fire her. All right. That’s what this is all about,” said Berger, who is defending Grant against a potential criminal charge. “And guess who has all the records that they supposedly gave the federal government, which I can’t see, to defend her?”

Like Lynn Barrett, Mitchell Berger is to be deposed on Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, Judge Robinson has set a two-hour evidentiary hearing on the motion to disqualify for Nov. 20 at 1:45 p.m.

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Latest comments

  • Tax payers should not be liable for one dime of this mess. Clearly the fault lies with the Boward Health’s Board for this collection of crooks, hacks and incompetents carefully assembled by Gov. Scott. This is the face (one of them) of Florida’s political corruption. It appears that several lawyers should be disbarred and all concerned be held personally liable while several of the cast of characters should be prosecuted.

  • It is very sad that The Board its General Counsel and so many others are focused on this not serving the patients that need services.

    If I were a Board Member I would get a General Counsel that solves problems…Not create them. Then-I would re-focus the organization on patient services and find an experienced President/CEO.

  • Dan
    You need to thoroughly investigate this hospital
    Everything is not right, (dah) but if people are only believing what they are reading here they are in for a shock
    THERE IS MUCH MORE
    INVESTIGATE EVALUATE AND REPORT

  • Taxpayers should also be concerned with all of the Bev Capasso newly hired Executive VPs, VPs and AVPs from her days at Tenet or Jackson. Would any Broward County Resident want to be a patient at a Tenet or Jackson hospital?
    Remember Cleveland Clinic was a Tenet hospital when it was bad which is why Ohio took over the hospital and now it is good. They got rid of Capasso.
    She hired theses people and gave them huge amounts of money for jobs they would never get or qualify for elsewhere. I can’t believe things have actually gotten worse!
    Dan, do a story all all the new hires and report their salaries and the severances of those that left, the price tag will be shocking to the taxpayers.

  • Absolutely right, Cleveland Clinic fired Capasso as did Jackson, and yes the boy wonder team from Memorial and Jackson have Hugh salaries and yes things are worse MUCH worse, the atmosphere at North is terrible Since Alice Taylor has come on board it is like walking on egg shells, of course the people who should go such as Taylor and the CNO are ever evident there, Quality and the Quality department SUCKS big time, patient care is suffering, in fifteen years at North I have never seen it like this. People who give everything are trampled on a good example was Robert Bugg Fantastic guy and CEO patients loved him staff loved him,
    Dan you need to do more than a story on the current situation there you need to do a full investigative report, Grant is totally innocent, Barrett and her had words years ago, Barrett was about to be fired by Grant the sis one nasty rail of retaliation we are having to pay for in the county. This money could have gone to patients and the clinics instead it is used for this rubbish
    DAN WE NEEd YOU TO INVESTIGATE

  • I have worked at Broward North for 25 years

    We have been through rough times

    THIS IS THE WORST EVER

    MORAL IS VERY LOW, THANK YOU BEV GINO ALAN FOR YOUR HARD WORK IN CREATING A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

    YOUR WORK FORCE IS NOT HAPPY

    ALICE IS THE WORST CEO EVER , I MEAN EVER AND THAT TAKES SOME DOING

    ENJOY YOUR THANKSGIVING

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