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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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LSHA

5:15 pm Tonight: Lake Shore Hosp Auth Unelected Republican Board on tap to Raise Taxes 61%

Columbia County, FL – Tonight at 5:15 pm, the all Governor Scott appointed Republican Lake Shore Hospital Board is on tap to raise Authority taxes 61%, while floating on as sea of millions and millions in cash reserves. This year the charge to raise taxes was led by Board member Dr. Mark Thompson. The Board has the ability to roll back the taxes both tonight and at the second budget hearing on September 24. Once again, the Governor's Board has scheduled the hearings at the most inconvenient time for working families to attend.

The Lake Shore Hospital Authority is one of over 1,200 special districts in Florida. The Authority is a special taxing district established by the legislature. At one time it had a purpose.

During the Jack Berry era it appeared that the Authority's main purpose was to give Mr. Berry, the former Republican leader, a job.

However, Mr. Berry through a combination of the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) and his and the Board's desire to thin the ranks of dependent Authority clients, reduced the client roll, at one point, 90%.

The New Board: A Group of Hand Picked Young Republican Turks

The latest three handpicked Governor Scott appointments to the Authority Board are, in order of appointment: Jay Swisher of Florida Gateway College, Stephen Douglas of Candler-Moses, and Joe Brooks, presently of Haven Hospice and formerly of Health Management Associates (HMA), which was purchased by Community Health Systems (CHS). CHS is leasing the Lake Shore Hospital Authority owned hospital.

In 2010, HMA signed a super long term triple net lease with the Authority. Upon the sale of HMA to CHS, the lease was transferred word for word.

The Budget

As reported earlier, the new part-time Authority Manager, Dale Williams, pointed out during the budget workshop that almost no meaningful records of Authority expenditures were maintained and that actual expenditures for prior years are not available for the Board. The Governor's Board has almost no reliable way to judge if the projected FY 2019 budget is legitimate, honest, and reasonable.

Millions in Unnecessary Authority Expenditures Planned

Despite the lease and two opinions by Authority Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., this Governor's Board has so far voted to spend Columbia County taxpayer dollars on expenses mandated to be spent by CHS, one of the largest private hospital corporations in America. (file photo: Fred Koberlein)

On June 1, 2015, Attorney Koberlein wrote in relevant part (abridged): If the premises are within the lease agreement, the Lessee is "responsible for the maintenance of those premises, including extraordinary repairs or replacement." (see highlight)

On March 8, 2017, Attorney Koberlein again communicated with the Board: "The Lessee is entirely responsible for the repairs, maintenance, and improvements of the Hospital facilities during the term of the lease." (see highlight)

Epilogue

Board Member Mark Thompson, a late 2017 Gov. Scott appointee, has publicly mentioned during Authority Board meetings that he cannot understand the lease.

Your reporter asked former Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board Chairman Marc Vann, the man responsible for 2010 lease negotiations and in good measure the terms of the lease, if the Board knew what it was voting on when it approved the lease.

Mr. Vann told your reporter, "As far as I know, they all understood it."

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