Broward News

Broward Health Hires Attorney With Questionable History, Credentials

Imagine you're a lawyer with his eye on one of the most powerful legal positions in Broward County: general counsel for the massive public health care district Broward Health.

But to make things even tougher, let's imagine you have a conflict of interest in representing the district. Worse yet, you don't even know much about health-care law, meaning that you'll have to hire outside lawyers to do that work when a more qualified general counsel could have done it himself. Oh, and one more thing: For your unqualified legal counsel, you want Broward Health to pay you approximately twice as much as it had been paying its most recent general counsel.

Do you think you could make the case that you should be hired? If not, then you're no Sam Goren.

That's right. Despite having a conflict of interest, a lack of expertise on health-care law, and a price tag that's twice what the district had been paying its last general counsel, Goren was named the permanent general counsel this past May, a year after assuming that role on an interim basis.

And how did Goren get that job on an interim basis? Well, according to allegations in a whistleblower lawsuit, Goren advised the previous general counsel, Marc Goldstone, on the intricacies of becoming licensed to practice law in Florida only to inform the board that Goldstone had not followed proper procedure. Goldstone was fired by the board as a result. His associate general counsel, Joe Truhe, would seem to be the natural successor, only Truhe was fired for even more dubious reasons. So Goren got the gig.

At the meeting in which the board gave Goren the news, he treated it as a pleasant surprise. Sure.

Broward Health had such a weak case in justifying the termination of those two attorneys that the district had to settle the cases at a high price: Goldstone was paid $100,000. Truhe settled his case in exchange for $75,000.

The district is partially funded through your property taxes.

Based on the minutes of that May meeting, it appears that when it came time to make a decision on Goren, the board turned to one of its newest commissioners, Clarence McKee, who consulted with Goren on a legal services agreement.

I called McKee to ask about what made him decide that Goren should be made the permanent general counsel. "My view was that, given the state of flux -- and that Sam Goren had been doing a heck of a job -- it was a good idea to get him on board."

McKee said he was not aware of how Goren first became interim general counsel, nor was he familiar with the cost difference between paying Goren's $200 hourly rate versus paying an in-house general counsel a salary.

But McKee said that he's been "very, very impressed watching [Goren] operate" and that he was reluctant to incur the costs of doing a national search for an in-house general counsel.