Andrew Pestano

Broward Health Officials Indicted Over Alleged Open-Meeting Law Violations

A grand jury indicted four Broward Health commissioners and an attorney over alleged violations of open-meeting laws, the Broward County State Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

The two current and two former North Broward Hospital District board members indicted are accused of not notifying the public about meetings and action taken related to the termination of former CEO and President Pauline Grant.

The Florida Sunshine Law requires public boards to conduct business in the public eye with limited exceptions. Proper notification must also be given prior to public meetings if an action or vote will be held, such as a termination.

The indictment alleges the four Broward Health commissioners met privately through "conduits or intermediaries" to hold defacto meetings at a hotel, restaurant and by telephone to discuss kickback accusations against Grant.

Broward General Counsel Lynn Barrett is accused of hatching a scheme to investigate Grant's actions. She is also accused of urging the commissioners to violate the Florida Sunshine Law.

Because the former and current commissioners allegedly held the meetings in private and voted to terminate Grant without previously notifying the public, they were found to have broken the Florida Sunshine Law by the grand jury.

Broward Health Board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, Commissioner Christopher Ure, former Commissioner Linda Robison, and Broward Health Interim CEO/President and former Commissioner Beverly Capasso were indicted on two counts of violations of the Florida Sunshine Law and one count of conspiracy to violate the open-meeting law.

Barrett was indicted on one count of solicitation to violate and conspiracy to violate the Florida Sunshine Law.

All charges in the indictment are second-degree misdemeanors and each count carries a maximum penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott typically suspends public officials who face criminal charges, the Sun Sentinel reports. If he suspends the current board members, just three seats out of seven would be filled.

In a statement, Broward Health called the case "most misguided prosecution we have ever seen," adding that the "deeply flawed investigation was predetermined, biased, and manipulated from the start."

"Instead of protecting the new management and commissioners at the North Broward Hospital District, who have been intimidated and harassed while cooperating with federal and state law enforcement officers to root out corruption and violations of the federal health care laws, the State Attorney’s Office allowed itself to be manipulated by the very same people who were replaced because of their mismanagement and corruption," the statement reads. "The SAO’s professed interest about enforcing the Sunshine Laws is contradicted by its refusal to subpoena the most critical witness to the grand jury that has essential exculpatory evidence about defendants’ compliance with the Sunshine Laws."

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