Hospital District Still Struggling to Prove That Reorganization Plan Isn't Driven by CEO's Self-Interest

Bernstein says this definitely wasn't his idea.

The North Broward Hospital District is eager to prove that its CEO and president, Frank Nask, did not come up with the idea to lease the district's assets to a nonprofit organization all by himself. Because if it was his idea, then he would be vulnerable to allegations that he was

acting out of pure self-interest

, especially now that a new governor will be taking office and (most likely) appointing a new cast of commissioners, who control Nask's future.

So first Nask told Juice that the idea to study the district's future belonged to Commissioner Robert Bernstein. Indeed, in July 2009 Bernstein mused about the uncertainties that would come when health-care reform was signed into law.

Except I was at that same meeting,

Nask

and it was clear that Bernstein was not proposing Nask embark on a study that would lead to conclusions as radical as the one he proposed earlier this month. In an interview last week, Bernstein himself told me that he didn't have a role in bringing this idea to Nask. In fact, Bernstein -- who was removed from the commission in late January by Crist, just before Bernstein could remove Nask as CEO -- has emerged as the plan's most forceful critic. He said of Nask: "He's handing a billion-dollar contract to a (nonprofit) corporation that he's going to go work for."

Or at least that's Bernstein's suspicion -- the district has yet to say how the board of the nonprofit corporation would be selected.

In any case, the claim that Nask was fulfilling Bernstein's request doesn't hold water. The district's next explanation was that Nask received more formal direction to study the issue at the board's retreat, this past spring.

So I requested the audio from that meeting, only to be informed by the district that, actually, the directive wasn't quite so formal.

And today I was told that the meeting between the commissioners and the CEO was not recorded, so whatever the group discussed, there's no way for the public to know.

The district has returned to its original, highly questionable explanation: that Nask was studying the issue based on Bernstein's (nonexistent) request.

Which leaves us with only an inescapable conclusion: that Nask began studying this issue on his own initiative. And he did not share his findings until September 10, less than three weeks after his future at the district had suddenly become clouded by Bill McCollum's departure from the gubernatorial race. That raises questions about whether the proposal, which makes no mention of allowing a public bid, represents what's best for the public hospital district or what's best for Frank Nask and his supporters.

Nask has denied that his job security has any role in the formation of his proposal to lease the district assets to a nonprofit.

The public hearings for this proposal begin September 29. For a primer on the stakes of this decision, check out this handy rundown in today's Sun-Sentinel.


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