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DeSantis ally Strum reels in sweet deal to run Broward Health with contract finessed by his lawyers

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Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Health Medical Center, flagship of the taxpayer-assisted North Broward Hospital District’s five hospital healthcare system

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org

Shane Strum, the governor’s chief of staff, will become chief executive of Broward Health later this month with a handcrafted three-year contract worth $1.3 million annually, despite having no hands-on experience running a hospital.

Broward Health’s seven-member board, hobbled by three long-unfilled seats, unanimously voted 4-0 to approve the Fort  Lauderdale resident’s contract on Feb. 24 in what looked to be something of a rush toward the end of its regular meeting. Each of those commissioners was appointed by former Republican governor-now Sen. Rick Scott.

The deal’s political overtones are obvious, raising questions about whether the taxpayer-assisted North Broward Hospital District, as it is legally known, is backsliding toward the muck of political influence, corruption and scandal that it recently seemed to have moved past.

“It’s a bold gamble,” said one longtime Broward Health observer who asked not to be named. “If Strum is able to raise money and bring in government grants that have been sorely lacking,” his hiring will be a good thing. “If not, all the great plans for expansion and delivering more services will fall flat.”

Shane Strum
Shane Stum will become Broward Health’s CEO and President on March 29. Photo: Florida Politics

Strum’s employment agreement with Broward Health included several last-minute changes inserted by Strum and his lawyers at the Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding. The changes, which weren’t given to the board to read until the night before, were largely OK’d by Broward Health’s board, sometimes over cautions voiced by the district’s legal counsel, Linda Epstein.

One pleasing addition was the insertion of a clause granting Strum a “sign on” bonus of $25,000 “payable in cash within 30 days.” That’s in addition to his $920,000 annual salary with an “anticipated” 30 percent annual bonus. No reason was given for providing such an extra handout to someone who vied for the job against two more experienced competitors.

Strum and severance

Broward Health provided Strum with two years of severance – or $1.84 million at his current salary – if he’s terminated “without cause.” But the contract’s heavily reworked termination provisions expand “without cause” to include any decision by the board not to renew his contract should he want to stay, and also allowing Strum to collect severance if he quits “for good reason.”

Strum’s novel “good reasons” for resigning, as approved by Broward Health’s governing board, include: any cut in Strum’s pay or incentive bonus, any reduction in his authority or duties, including the appointment of someone above him, and any “material diminution” in Broward Health’s budget.

Likewise, the alterations also watered down the board’s ability to fire Strum “with cause.” For example, a contract provision that allowed dismissal for an “employee’s threatened or actual physical violence” was modified to add “at the workplace.” Threats of violence or violence outside the workplace are not grounds for termination.

Together, the changes essentially eliminate the contract’s three-year term, meaning Strum can leave most anytime and the public will have to pay him two years of salary as severance.

Protecting Strum

Commissioners Ray Berry and Nancy Gregoire were the most vocal in their support for Strum’s generous severance arrangements.

“I do believe that in the severance portions we need to make sure that somebody of Shane’s profile, who has played the political game for so long, doesn’t in two years when a new board is in place and a new governor is in place, get forced out because of some political shenanigans,” said Berry.

Broward Health Commissioners Nancy Gregoire and Ray Berry

“I agree,” said Gregoire. “Whether we like it or not this tends to be a political organization.”

Still, General Counsel Epstein expressed her concerns about a number of contract provisions inserted by Strum that she said “may be disadvantageous to Broward Health.” She said that included one new section defining the meaning of “good reason.”

“We weren’t sure what some of this meant,” said Epstein, who supervises a team of staff attorneys. “For example, material diminution of the budget. Our budget changes year to year and it’s sometimes outside our control.”

Another example Epstein cited was new “termination language” in the contract that could make firing Strum “with cause” more difficult “and in my opinion, my legal opinion, could lead to litigation if that were the case.”

But almost as quickly as Epstein raised those concerns, Gregoire waved them away. “I think that language would be very appropriate if we were dealing with a stranger, but this is a hometown guy who is coming home, who’s been serving the state of Florida for a long time. But I think it’s important that you point these things out, and why we strike them down,” she said.

Strum takes charge March 29

Strum, 51, will take charge of leading Broward Health’s five hospitals and 8,200 employees on March 29. He replaces Gino Santorio, who left last month to become CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach.

Strum will take over a hospital system that under Santorio recently had bounced back after years of turmoil and infighting that torpedoed morale and the district’s credit rating, led some doctors to depart and others to publicly warn that mismanagement was impacting health care. Fraud and corruption led to a whistleblower lawsuit and federal intervention that resulted in Broward Health paying $69.5 million in 2015 to settle allegations that it had paid illegal kickbacks to nine doctors for referring patients to its hospitals. The scheme had gone on for more than a decade.

Another chapter in the ugly past is set to return again in May in a Fort Lauderdale federal courtroom in the bribery-conspiracy trial of former Broward Health purchasing director Brian Bravo. According to his indictment, between 2008 and 2015, when he was fire, Bravo collected $600,000 in illegal payments from four vendors who provided more than $22 million in goods and services to Broward Health. The illegal payments included not only cash and checks, but family vacations to Cancun, The Bahamas and Walt Disney World plus tickets and a trip to Brazil for Bravo to attend the World Cup of Soccer in 2014. His trial date is now May 24.

While Shane Strum doesn’t come with the healthcare knowledge for running a hospital system, he does bring a wealth of political and community connections that can lead to possibly big donations or appropriations for the non-profit hospital system.

Strum has long been active in politics, first as the leader of Broward County’s Young Republicans and later as chairman of the county’s GOP. Before he worked for DeSantis, he served as chief of staff or Gov. Charlie Crist and was an adviser to Rick Scott’s gubernatorial transition team in 2010. In 2011, he was hired as an executive at Keiser University.

From 2001 to 2009 Strum was a member of and chairman of the South Broward Hospital District, which operates as Memorial Healthcare Systems in Hollywood. He later served as vice president for strategic planning before being hired by Gov. DeSantis.

In Tallahassee, Strum is the highest-paid employee of the Executive Office of the Governor, with an annual salary of $180,250. DeSantis’s salary is $134,181.

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Latest comments

  • Not one mention of Broward Health stripping hard earned retirement benefits from rule of 80 employees this past November 2020. Yet, there is enough money on hand to pay almost $ 1,000,000 a year to one employee.
    Why is this a secret?

  • Shane Strum is an excellent choice for CEO and President of Broward Health. Throughout his career, he has been a problem solver and an individual who brings people together from all walks of life.

    The salary in his contract isn’t much different than that of previous CEOs, although for obvious reasons terms like severance need to be. But with Shane Strum, Broward General is getting someone who basically has been Chief of Staff for the last three Florida Governors and has overseen vast growth and improvement statewide while working with people from all over the map.

    The job is about more than big donations and appropriations, although he is highly skilled in that area. The job also involves treating people right, including long time employees and new ones. Shane Strum will absolutely treat people with the care and respect they deserve, and Broward Health and Broward County will benefit from it far greater than what’s spent on his contract.

  • As a past Commissioner of Broward Health and someone who understands many of the challenges of helping guide a billion dollar non profit I believe Mr. Strum is uniquely qualified to fill the CEO position.

    Mr Strum has more experience on a large non profit healthcare taxing district Board than anyone in Broward County, if not the State of Florida. This gives him a unique understanding of the direction required to keep Broward Health moving in the right direction. In addition he has the political skills and business acumen required to lead a business as complex as Broward Health.

    With the district finally operating on level ground thanks to the operating skills of Mr. Santorio, the Board needed to hire a CEO with the strategic vision to take Browrad in the right direction for the next generation.. Mr Strum has many years of successful leadership and should prove the Board made a wise decision.

  • Aa a long term employee of the district I am appalled at this outrageous contract. From other info I read this man was making $180,000 a year. That is a hefty raise at the expense of the tax payers. Not to mention $25,000 dollars IN CASH!!!! What an insult to the employees. The most we can get for a raise is three percent and are told pretty much have to walk on water for 3 percent so end up getting a two percent raise which after many years is cents not even a dollar.Just recently the district took away the retiree benefit of healthcare leaving long time employees and retirees without the rule of 80 promised years ago and left with paying exorbitant prices for their health insurance. This is ok? They are going to give this man a thirty percent raise on$ 900,000+. As I was told when they took the rule of 80 away from employees many years ago after being promised this benefit when hired where is the money coming from? I am going to ask the same thing. Where is the money coming from?
    All healthcare workers work short handed and then if it is a slow day where they can catch up they are made to clock out and go home saving the budget and the supervisor bonus. This is one more slap in the face for the dedicated employees and the tax payers of Broward County of which I am one. I am insulted and embarrassed to be working for this one sided , politically corrupt hospital district. We have to smile. And take the 2 percent raIse with the undertone that if you don’t like it there are other places to work. This man is getting a 30 percent bonus with no hospital experience. We will go down another rabbit hole of illegal activity like several years back. Guess who was held accountable for that . The employees. We had to go to mandatory meetings do special questionnaires about fraud and all other nefarious activities and we were not even involved. We are taking it in the throat one more time.

  • Disgusted and Disappointed: As of November 2020, Broward Health made additional changes for Rule of 80 Employees who were grandfathered in . Every year, I would receive an update on paper. The benefit was to continue to pay employee health insurance rates for myself and spouse after retirement

    Gaslighting has become the new normal at Broward Health.

    November 2020, the health insurance benefit escalated from about $260 a month to $1,025 if a grandfathered rule of 80 employee wished to continue coverage upon retiring.
    Anyone who takes $1,000,000 salary per year from Broward Health should be aware that retirees are not able to get their medications as they did before on “the new plan. “ The only medication my spouse needs is not affordable .The price jumped from $50 to $2,000 every two months due to the reduction in benefits.

  • As I understand it, the rule of 80 retirees get $2,850 and $2,150 annually for their spouse of TAX-PAYER money to purchase healthcare when there are Medicare Advantage Plans that are basically free to them! You all need to wake up about what is happening to most Broward County residents that have worked hard. We don’t have our employers giving us money to help with healthcare. Stop whining!

  • He has his work cut our for him. The workplace is toxic in many areas. Union campaign is a certainty with unqualified HR leadership. Working short handed due to vacancies, clinical education is so poor no one wants to work here.
    Sorry to the retirees but we are suffering everyday here.

  • STOP WHINING: you are uninformed.
    In order to get the stipend there are several hoops to jump through.
    One must join Medicare B then sign on to Aon, then an accepted into a plan.
    Next, your Primary physicians must be on the plan. You must save all your receipts and and document Why you are entitled to be reimbursed, then submit for approval.
    1) Medicare B monthly charge is $600 and medication supplement is $72. BH retirement Payment was $300 with medication coverage included.
    Due to reduced benefit, its $ 672.00 a month. Medications are covered on a Tier Basis. The Biological needed in our house is now $ 2,000 not $50. No one is honest enough to tell the truth up front. Who can afford $2672. Monthly? So let’s see…. how many months will the stipend last? 2 months?
    2) Grandfathered in 30 year employee who planned to have insurance as documented in writing for the Employee Rate to continue health care for half the money and All the Medication . Now, we’ve been put out to pasture to suffer without the ability to pay for our only Medication.
    Honest hard working dedicated employees planned for retirement and were Gaslighted into trusting and believing.
    Watching, seeing and turning a cheek for over 30 years, I should have known…..It’s no wonder my PCP called to Loudly read me the riot act when he found out that I didn’t have Broward Health Aetna but had switched to what HR told me was in my best interest. As a tax payer I’m opposed to $ 1,00,000 per year in salary for any employee.

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