Broward Health operates five public hospitals that serve the majority of people living in central and northern Broward County. This week, five of the agency’s board members were indicted on charges of violating Florida’s open government law, also known as the Sunshine Law.
The charges could affect the health system’s national search for a new CEO.
When the grand jury indictments came down, the board was in the middle of a national search for a new CEO of the health system.
There’s no precedent for how the legal action could affect the CEO candidate interviews. The board was hoping to pick someone in the next few months, but that could very well get pushed back.
The indictments for five Broward Health officials, including the general counsel and board chairman, all stem from unannounced meetings that took place in 2016, just before the vote to fire the then interim CEO, Pauline Grant, on Dec. 1, 2016.
David Fleshler has been reporting on this story for the Sun-Sentinel. He was at the meeting when Grant was voted out. And he believes the board members had already made up their minds about her in closed-door meetings.
“This was a way that they could all find out about this without it getting back to the public, to the press, to anyone else,” Fleshler said.
Frank LoMonte, an attorney and the director for the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, said criminal charges for Sunshine Law violations are rare and that the average person should care about this case.
“If you’re concerned about honest government, if you're concerned that your taxpayer money is being spent in an honest and above-board way, then you want at least the possibility that if not you, someone can go and watch over it,” said LoMonte .
LoMonte believes the national health system field will be watching what happens to the indicted Broward Health officials, as every state has some type of freedom of information law.