Bill Scherer likes to say he's not a downtown power broker anymore, just a downtown lawyer.
That was always a dubious assertion, especially since Scherer just inked a courthouse parking deal two weeks ago and is now taking a controversial lawsuit to end voter-mandated term limits to the Florida Supreme Court. But now he can't possibly say it with a straight face.
That's because Gov. Rick Scott just appointed one of Scherer's most trusted associates -- Dave Di Pietro -- to the North Broward Hospital District board on Friday. The move marks the return of Scherer's influence at the board. Remember, he was the long-time general counsel at the District before then-Gov. Jeb Bush cleaned house following a newspaper investigation by yours truly. Bush got rid of board members, the CEO, the CFO, and of course the general counsel.
Scott's election to the governor's mansion was a win for Scherer -- he backed Scott fairly early, holding big fundraisers for him at the home of Doug Von Allmen, whose family allegedly lost $100 million in Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme. Scherer is representing Von Allmen and others who lost money to Rothstein in a civil lawsuit.
Di Pietro is a former Broward State Attorney's Office prosecutor who joined Scherer's firm, Conrad Scherer, a few years ago. He started his own practice last month.
So what's next for the hospital district? Here's what: The push to privatize is going to hit critical mass. Scott, not surprisingly, is supportive of the move, as is Scherer (and presumably Di Pietro). The district's five hospitals and numerous clinics will be sold to a private company -- Scott's old once-fraud-laden company HCA perhaps -- for something along the lines of $1.3 billion. That money will then be put in a fund to pay for indigent patients' care.
AKA: The wolves are circling the hospital district -- and it's going to be up to the media and the taxpayers to protect the public's money from a good old-fashioned plundering.
-- Last month I published a letter questioning the need for putting about $5 million of taxpayers' money into a sprinkler system in the parking garages of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Well it got the attention of county officials and led to an explanation from Deputy Fire Chief Charles Raiken.
Raiken, in humorous fashion, goes out of his way to say he's not writing this in response to my "newspaper article." Apparently he'd never stoop to that level. But boy does he go into the depths of bureaucratic gobbledy gook to justify the $5 million expenditure. To read, skip ahead to the italics. The explanation does nothing to assuage the suspicion of the original letter writer (one "Fired Up") that this was an unnecessary expense. When Broward Coalition President Charlotte Greenbarg read Raiken's explanation, she noted that it was still hard to comprehend exactly why the $5 million needed to be spent and asked county commissioners in an email to have a full discussion on the expenditure at a future meeting. Hear hear. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: Meyer, Gregory Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 4:28 PM To: Alston, Torey; Barnes, Desiree; Beckford, John; Deer, Lavern; Fear, Nancy; Laraia, Patricia; Levy, Natalie; Marshall, Dawn; Medvin, Scott; Monserrat, Marcia; Pauli, Kenneth; Pierson, Kelly; Platt, Dee; Popiel, Stephen; Pryde, Mary; Ripple, Franco; Rivero, Zenia; Saunders, Ryan; Smith, Susan; Stracher, Beverly; Wolter, Margaret; Gunzburger, Suzanne; Holness, Dale; Jacobs, Kristin; Lamarca, Chip; Lieberman, Ilene; Ritter, Stacy; Rodstrom, John; Sharief, Barbara; Wexler, Lois Cc: George, Kent Subject: FW: Did County need to spend $4.8 million on airport sprinklers?
Dear Mayor, Vice Mayor and Commissioners:
I am sending this at the request of Kent George.
Last month Bob Norman posted a letter he received on the WPLG-10 website in reference to the recently installed fire suppression system in the Airport?s Palm and Hibiscus garages. BCAD was required to install the system for a variety of reasons, as outlined in the Fire Marshal?s memo dated August 30, 2005, and attached to this email.
Fire Chief Charles Raiken sent our office the following email, outlining the reasoning behind the decision. (Please see italicized note below.)
BSO Fire Rescue is not going to provide a response to the author of the specific newspaper article. However, for your information, the public records with BCAD for the approval of these projects should have the background information justifying the installation of the fire sprinklers as an alternative method for the BCAD Airport to remain in compliance with the Broward County Land Development Code relating to adequacy of fire protection, and remain in compliance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code relating to fire department accessibility for emergency vehicles, and fire department laddering areas for buildings and structures. The fire sprinklers were approved as an alternate method of compliance for corrective action made necessary due to significant obstructions to fire code required fire department access to both parking garages resulting from the construction of additional projects and developments such as the toll exit roadway systems, significant landscape enhancements, and security measures due to homeland security provisions that created fire and life safety code violations at both parking garages. These fire sprinkler system projects were vetted and funded many years ago and BCAD was given a very reasonable time for compliance. The fire code provided the solution for alternative method of compliance which provided a reasonable resolution to the firefighter safety and public safety issue. The Fire Department provided opportunities for BCAD to utilize existing fire protection systems within these existing parking garages to minimize some of the costs for installation of fire sprinkler systems. This explanation is offered for the purposes of providing stakeholders with factual information regarding this matter. Please see your records from BCAD projects for further information. Thank you, Chief Charles Raiken Charles Raiken Deputy Fire Chief of Administration Broward Sheriff's Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services Tel. (954) 831-8214 Fax. (954) 831-8218