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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Auth News

Lake Shore Hospital Authority:
Secret procurement - No public comments allowed


Last week at the Governor's Round-table, the Lake Shore Hosp Auth contingent, Jack Berry, Rhonda Sherrod and Marc Vann, listened to the Gov tell folks to get involved. Apparently, Mr. Berry and Mr. Vann did not think that meant the residents of Columbia County.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Columbia County's Lakeshore Hospital Authority has proven time and time again that it does not represent the people who foot the bill for its existence, the taxpayers of Columbia County. Last night, this Governor appointed board out did itself by first banning public comment and then flaunting the fact that the General Manager, past Republican chieftain and political operative, Jackson P. (Jack) Berry, could facilitate a secret procurement process for professional services without the knowledge of this handpicked board.

Link:  Read more about the Lake Shore Hosp Auth here.

An examination of the Lakeshore Hospital Authority minutes since the beginning of the year show no comments by anyone, including Authority Manager Berry, for the procurement of professional engineering services for plans to renovate a Hospital Authority building purchased at the peak of the real estate bubble. The building, at the corner of Marion and Franklin Streets, was purchased in a real-estate spending spree orchestrated by the then Chairman of the Hosp Auth Board, Mr. Berry.

The Observer fielded many complaints about the Berry real-estate deals and referred those folks to the Justice Department. The Authority was put under investigation. It is not clear what happened to that investigation.

Legislative Intent - Procurement: It's Florida - What's that?

Section 287 of the FL Statutes begins this way:

The Legislature recognizes that fair and open competition is a basic tenet of public procurement; that such competition reduces the appearance and opportunity for favoritism and inspires public confidence... and that documentation of the acts taken and effective monitoring mechanisms are important means of curbing any improprieties and establishing public confidence in the process by which ... contractual services are procured. It is essential to the effective and ethical procurement of... contractual services that there be a system of uniform procedures to be utilized by state agencies in managing and procuring... contractual services; that detailed justification of agency decisions in the procurement of... contractual services be maintained; and that adherence by the agency and the vendor to specific ethical considerations be required.

The purpose of the renovation: To build on spec a doctor's office.

The Law:

Each agency shall publicly announce, in a uniform and consistent manner, each occasion when professional services must be purchased for a project that basic construction cost of which is estimated by the agency to exceed... $250,000.

In discussions, which went nowhere last year, the value of the renovation was discussed to be in the neighborhood of $400,000, which is well over the $250,000 threshold required for competitive sealed bidding.

During the meeting, General Manager Berry did not announce where the request for bids was advertised, because it was not. It is uncertain when and where the bids were opened.

One of the responding companies, GTC Design Group, the low bidder, who was awarded the contract last night, is in the process of being sold and as of last Thursday the sale was not complete, causing the County to withdraw an item involving GTC Design Group.

Board member Dr. Waseem Khan, the only non republican on the Board, objected to the Authority building a doctor's office on spec. Mr. Berry blew him off.

After Mr. Berry told Dr. Khan that he did not have a guaranteed tenant for the proposed renovated property, Dr. Khan asked for a show of good faith from the purported tenant.

Mr. Berry told him "that was impossible."

Just Speculation

Dr. Khan told the Board, "This whole thing is just speculation."

When Dr. Khan asked to see the floor plan, Mr. Berry told him he could not see it.

The floor plan was part of the bid packet.

It is not clear why the taxpayers of Columbia County are financing the building of a doctor's office by the Lakeshore Hospital Authority, as this seems to be something that could clearly be financed by the private sector.

Board member Lori Chancy opined that if Mr. Berry asked for too much the purported tenant, "Could just rent a place."

No Public Comments


Political operative and LSHA Board Chair, Koby Adams, ran cover for his friends and removed public comments from the agenda.

Shortly after the conversation concluded, Board Chairman and Representative Elizabeth Porter's chief legislative aide, Koby Adams, announced that there would no longer be a time for public comments on the agenda.

Mr. Adams announced that if a member of the public wanted to make public comments they must put them in writing at least 15 days before the meeting so that the board could prepare a response.

Not one member of the Governor appointed board objected.

After the meeting, Board member Mark Vann defended the Republican Chairman. Mr. Vann said, "The Supreme Court of Florida said no public body in Florida had to take comments. That is his choice."

Epilogue

Columbia County -- The Land of the Good Ole Boys --- The legend continues.

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