Broward Health Leaders Indicted on Open Meetings Law Violations

The leaders of the publicly funded Broward Health hospital system were recently indicted, adding more scandal to the already beleaguered institution.

On December 12, 2017, a grand jury indicted Broward Health board chairman Rocky Rodriguez, interim CEO Beverly Capasso, General Counsel Lynn Barrett, board member Christopher Ure and former board member Linda Robison.

All charges are second-degree misdemeanors, with maximum penalties of a $500 fine and 60 days in jail per count. All five Broward Health officials were charged with conspiracy for violating the public meetings law, with Barrett additionally charged with “solicitation to violate the public meetings law.”

The charges result from a December 1, 2016 meeting in which the board voted to fire Broward Health interim CEO Pauline Grant. That night’s agenda contained no information that Grant’s dismissal was under discussion, and Grant later filed suit against Barrett and the board.

Three other board members, who were not members on December 1, 2016 and not involved in Grant’s dismissal, were not charged.

The Florida Bulldog reports the indictment states,

Barrett solicited Rodriguez, Ure, Robison ‘and/or’ Capasso, personally or through conduits or intermediaries Jack Selden and/or Richard Westling, to discuss in private meetings, in person and by telephone, allegations of misconduct then being made about Grant where such de facto meetings were not noticed to the public and therefore not open to the public at all times.”

The alleged meetings took place at a Westin Hotel and at Mario’s Catalina Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Each of the indicted individuals received a summons to appear for arraignment on January, 22, 2018 before Broward County Court Judge Jill Levy.

Florida Open Public Meetings Law

Under the state’s open public meetings law, the public has access to the meetings of governmental bodies at both the state and local level. Since the public must know the time and place of the meeting, as well as the subjects slated for discussion, in order to attend, proper noticing is part of the open public meetings law.

The Capasso Question

Capasso earns $650K annually in her positions as interim CEO.

Not only did Capasso, as a board member, vote to appoint herself in May, 2017,  which is a possible violation of Florida voting law, but her contract was negotiated by Barrett. The actions by the board and Barrett may also violate Florida’s open meetings law, but the story gets even more outrageous.

The Sun Sentinel reports that Capasso’s master’s degree in public health administration comes from the now defunct “diploma mill” Kennedy Weston University. This online institution closed in 2009 after failing to gain accreditation.

Capasso would likely have paid between $6,000 and $6,500 for her “degree.” She does hold an undergraduate nursing degree from Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University. Broward Health does require at least a master’s degree for a permanent CEO position.

No Permanent CEO in Two Years

In early 2016, Broward Health’s CEO, Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, committed suicide. Prior to killing himself, Sanadi had been meeting for over a year with a private corporate investigator he had hired to look into systemic improprieties.

That investigator, Wayne Black, told Broward Health’s general counsel that the evidence he had gathered lead to a current FBI investigation against the company. In 2015, Broward Health agreed to pay $69.5 million in a settlement in which it was accused of paying nine doctors illegally for referrals.

The U.S. Department of Justice then required the Broward Health system “sign agreements to disclose financial arrangements with doctors and vendors, develop a new code of conduct and establish ethics training for personnel,” according to Modern Healthcare.  

Just days after Sanadi’s demise, at a public meeting, doctors refused to sign the new agreements and the Broward Health board warned that physicians who didn’t sign could have their privileges suspended. Doctors pointed out the agreements are vague, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits.

Since Sanadi’s death, interim CEOs have held the position, and none for very long. The board was supposed to vote on one of six possible candidates to fill the CEO position permanently at its January board meeting, but it is possible the criminal charges will affect that decision. Let’s hope the board places information on that aspect of the agenda for the public prior to holding its next meeting.



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