The morning after he learned he would be replaced on the Broward Health Board of Commissioners, Dan Gordon is trying to strike a diplomatic tone. Reached at the office of his Pompano Beach insurance company, Gordon said he was "not upset." Rather, he was "surprised" by Gov. Charlie Crist's decision and "disappointed."
But there's no diplomatic way of stating a truth that's now obvious, especially in light of Gordon's being launched at the same time as Robert Bernstein. "I'm going to guess it was purely political," Gordon said when pressed. "Because why else?"
Gordon was not given an explanation by Crist's office -- suggesting Tallahassee isn't even going to bother pretending the move had more benign motives.
Appointed to the board five years ago by Jeb Bush, Gordon was the board's most solemn, dispassionate commissioner. Among the seven-member cast of commissioners, Gordon is the only one not implicated in allegations of ethical misconduct during the eight months that this blog has been investigating Broward Health.
From a public-service standpoint, Gordon's single flaw was perhaps his faith in the good intentions of commissioners, hospital executives, and the Republican powers who pull the strings at the hospital district from Tallahassee.
Though Gordon's term as a commissioner ended in 2009, he was still serving, believing that his appointment to another term was a mere formality.
But in the past, Gordon had favored raising ethical standards for commissioners. He also opposed the kind of sweetheart deals for which the district is notorious -- such as former commissioner Rebecca Stoll's push for giving away health-care marketing dollars to her favorite museum, for example.
By not asking Commissioner Joseph Cobo to resign in May after an internal investigation found evidence of ethical misconduct, Crist's office signaled a willingness to forgive its hospital commissioners lapses. And by ousting Bernstein from the board yesterday, it signaled a willingness to protect Fernandez and Nask from a set of ethics-related questions for which Bernstein was going to demand answers at the next meeting.
So it's evident Gordon's principles are a poor match for what Crist's office wants on its commission -- even though Gordon hadn't made up his mind about Bernstein's action to report Fernandez to the state ethics commission and terminate Nask as CEO.
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"I was going to vote to hear what Robert had to say," says Gordon, speaking of Nask. "If he had evidence that suggested Frank should be terminated, I would have voted for it," adding that he'd have voted against it if he judged the evidence lacking.
As for Fernandez's failing to disclose that his employer, SonoSite, sells ultrasounds to the district, Gordon was waiting for a legal opinion to make up his mind. "I don't know what the law is," he says. "I do know [Fernandez] works for a company that sells products to the district. He never hid the fact of who he worked for. But if the law says it's a conflict, then it's a conflict."
Gordon's only regrets at the district are political -- namely, that politics on the commission obscured the features of Broward Health that otherwise would be a point of pride for the 8,000 employees and local health-care consumers: That a community hospital boasts technology like proton radiation therapy and a da Vinci Surgical System, for example. He was looking forward to the Chris Evert Children's Hospital too.
"What irritates me is the political show going on, which is destructive," says Gordon. "You have a lot of folks doing good things -- and yet all the attention is on these seven commissioners bickering over stupid stuff."