Broward News

Broward Health Hit With Whistleblower Lawsuits

Shortly after Marc Goldstone began his new job as general counsel of Broward Health in November of last year, he found that the public hospital district -- which is among the nation's largest -- had been violating a range of federal laws and court orders, some of which jeopardized the safety of patients.

He also found that at least two of the seven commissioners who hired him had committed grievous ethical lapses that warranted change. In a suit he filed yesterday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale's U.S. District Court, Goldstone claims that he was fired in mid-May before he could make these reforms and that the decision by commissioners was based on their desire to protect a corrupt status quo.

Goldstone's complaint, which you can read here, is similar to a lawsuit by Joe Truhe, the attorney hired by Goldstone as associate general counsel, who was fired in the same motion as Goldstone. Truhe too alleges in his complaint -- also filed yesterday -- that commissioners' motives were corrupt.

In an emergency meeting in mid-May, commissioners claimed to have been misled by Goldstone as to the manner in which he expected to gain membership in the Florida Bar Association. In June, this blog cast some doubt on that claim, based on the district's having its own legal experts who, as practicing members of the Florida Bar, ought to have been more versed in the nuances of its membership than out-of-state attorneys like Goldstone and Truhe. In addition, the minutes of a meeting in March between Goldstone and commissioners show he declared his intention to have all the district's attorneys sit for the Florida Bar exam, which was the proper way for him and Truhe to gain admission.

The basis for the Goldstone-Truhe firings became even more questionable after Juice received district records detailing Goldstone's correspondence last week with commissioners and hospital executives.

But the most explosive possibility remains that Goldstone and Truhe's firings were related to the Stark Law and anti-kickback violations they identified during the time in the district. I described those issues in this post, from September. The cause-effect still seemed unlikely, however, because  it appeared that Goldstone had notified commissioners about the district's many legal hazards only after they had begun to move toward terminating him.

So the most stunning revelation in the Goldstone complaint is that he prepared that analysis of legal hazards in March -- two months before his firing -- but circulated it as a "draft," meaning that it wasn't an official public record. It was made available then to commissioners and executive staff, meaning that it could have provided a motive for firing Goldstone.

And the lawsuit is likely to explore other sinister motives. As a previous Juice post explained, Goldstone is said to have expressed fear that by curbing outside billings to a politically connected law firm like Gray-Robinson, he might jeopardize his job. Commissioner Robert Bernstein has particularly close ties to that firm, and it's Bernstein who was most aggressive in convincing district staff to move against Goldstone.

The complaint also brings new questions about Bernstein's activities. Goldstone claims that he had misgivings about the way in which Bernstein in his capacity as the head of the district's investment committee placed the hospital systems funds in the hands of "unlicensed, unregistered financial advisors, through hedge funds and without written guidelines."

Lots and lots of layers in this onion. We'll be doing more dissecting later. Stay tuned.

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Thomas Francis