FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A high-stakes power struggle at taxpayer-financed Broward Health spilled into a Broward County courtroom Friday as the tax-assisted public health system’s chairman, David DiPietro, alleged Friday that Gov. Rick Scott illegally removed him from office during a state investigation of the agency.
Brian Silber, an attorney for the banished DiPietro, blasted Scott at a court hearing for suspending DiPietro from office based on an allegation of malfeasance that Silber said lacked evidence and amounted to an illegal power play by the governor.
"In our country, when you disagree with somebody, when you don't like their politics or you didn't like something that they did, you don't get to send your investigator to rouse up suspicions and yank them out of office," Silber said. "…Hold the governor to the words of the law."
DiPietro's alleged offense is interfering with a state inquiry of waste and corruption when the Broward Health board hired outside law firm Berger Singerman to monitor the state's review and sit in on interviews with employees.
"This is the classic interference," Florida Attorney General special counsel Blaine Winship said on behalf of the governor. "The interference is in the witnesses that is the employees' ability to feel free to communicate to the inspector general's office."
But even Broward County Circuit Court Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips noted that the governor's allegations against DiPietro lacked any direct evidence that he personally did anything wrong.
"I don't see anything specific about Mr. DiPietro," she said.
"I'm doing what I think is best for my community," DiPietro said. "I'm sorry (Scott) disagrees with that. He has the right to appoint me, but he does not have the right to tell me what to do."
The judge's ruling is expected to come down soon, likely early next week.