Broward Health officials indicted on suspicion of violating state's Sunshine Law

Each count carries maximum penalty of up to 60 days in jail

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor
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BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Several Broward Health officials were indicted last week with violating Florida's Sunshine Law, the Broward State Attorney's Office announced on Tuesday.

The officials are all members or former members of the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners.

Broward State Attorney's Office officials said those who were indicted in the case Thursday include 
Broward Health Board Chairman Rocky Rodriguez, Commissioner Christopher Ure, former Commissioner Linda Robison and Broward Health Interim CEO/President and former Commissioner Beverly Capasso. Each individual was indicted on two counts of violations of the Florida Sunshine Law and one count of conspiracy to violate the Florida Sunshine Law.

Broward General Counsel Lynn Barrett was also indicted on one count of solicitation to violate the Florida Sunshine Law and conspiracy to violate the Florida Sunshine Law. 

The indictment claims that the four commissioners held de facto meetings at a hotel, restaurant and/or by telephone to discuss allegations against then-North Broward Hospital District Interim CEO/president Pauline Grant.

The meetings were allegedly held out of the public eye ahead of a scheduled Dec. 1 special board meeting.

The indictment also states that the commissioners violated the law at the Dec. 1 meeting by not properly communicating with the public the action they took regarding the termination of Grant.

Barrett is accused of soliciting commissioners to violate the Sunshine Law, while the general counsel and the commissioners are all accused of conspiring to violate the Sunshine Law.

Attorney Robert A. Butterworth, who is representing the North Broward Hospital District and attorney Roberto Martinez, who are representing  Barrett, released a joint statement, saying that all of the defendants "are innocent and will be exonerated at the trial."

"This is the most misguided prosecution we have ever seen," the statement read. "Instead of protecting the new management and commissioners at the North Broward Hospital District, who have been intimidated and harassed while co-operating 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 SAO deliberately disregarded the reports of the federally mandated Independent Review Organization issued to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services describing the pattern of obstruction and other potential violations of the laws by some former executives and commissioners."

Prosecutors said all of the charges against the Broward Health officials are second-degree misdemeanors.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. 

Below is the full statement from Butterworth and Martinez:

"This is the most misguided prosecution we have ever seen.

Instead of protecting the new management and commissioners at the North Broward Hospital District, who have been intimidated and harassed while co-operating with federal and state law enforcement officers to root out corruption and violations of the federal health care laws, the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) allowed itself to be manipulated by the very same people who were replaced because of their mismanagement and corruption.

The SAO deliberately disregarded the reports of the federally mandated Independent Review Organization issued to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services describing the pattern of obstruction and other potential violations of the laws by some former executives and commissioners.

This deeply flawed investigation was predetermined, biased, and manipulated from the start.

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.

All the defendants are innocent and will be exonerated at the trial."

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