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Health News Florida

Broward Hospital Leaders Indicted On Sunshine Charges

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Four current and former North Broward Hospital District commissioners and the district's general counsel have been indicted on misdemeanor charges that they violated the state's open-government law in the firing of former interim President and CEO Pauline Grant.

A Broward County grand jury handed down an indictment last week. Broward Health board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, Commissioner Christopher Ure and former commissioners Linda Robison and Beverly Capasso were each indicted on two counts of violating the Florida Sunshine Law and one count of conspiracy to violate the law, which requires boards and commissions to meet and hold discussions in public. General Counsel Lynn Barrett was indicted on a charge of solicitation to violate the Sunshine Law and conspiracy to violate the Sunshine Law. Each charge is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Attorneys for the hospital district issued a statement denying the allegations and accusing the Broward County State Attorney's Office of being manipulated “by the very same people who were replaced because of their mismanagement and corruption.”

The grand jury's charges stem from the North Broward hospital district commissioners' decision on Dec. 1, 2016, to terminate Grant. The commissioners acted after being told about a potential anti-kickback violation involving Grant. The Sun Sentinel reported in September that a Broward County grand jury started hearing testimony about a possible open-meeting violation and “other matters” involving the tax-supported hospital system, one of the largest in the state and the country.

The indictment alleges that in the two weeks leading up to Grant's dismissal, board commissioners “through conduits or intermediaries” met at a restaurant at the Westin Hotel or “through telephonic communications” and that “business or official acts were discussed on which foreseeable action was taken.” The meetings, according to the grand jury indictment, were not publicly noticed as required by law.

The indictment also alleges that the district did not properly notice the meeting where commissioners voted to terminate Grant and, therefore, the public was “denied a reasonable opportunity to be heard” regarding her dismissal.

Former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who is representing the hospital district, said the commissioners and Barrett have been served with summonses requiring them to appear in court Jan.22. Butterworth did not comment on the Broward County State Attorney's Office decision to convene a grand jury

“That's up to the state attorney to determine, and this office decided to bring this case to a grand jury. The grand jury acted, and now it's up to the attorneys,” Butterworth said.