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Ex-Broward Health Attorney Suspects Excessive Billing by Current Attorney

Joe Truhe, former associate general counsel of the North Broward Hospital District, is asking that board's chairman to investigate whether its acting general counsel, Sam Goren, is wasting district resources by billing for unnecessary legal work.

Goren's Fort Lauderdale firm of Goren, Cherof, Doody & Ezrol has been running the district's legal department since mid-May, when Truhe was fired along with then-General Counsel Marc Goldstone.

In a letter that board Chair Mike Fernandez received this week, Truhe points out that since health-care law is not a specialty of Goren's firm the way it was for Truhe and Goldstone, Goren must send more legal work to lawyers outside the district, who bill at a rate several times the rate at which the district was paying the two former leaders of its general counsel staff.

It begs the question of why Goren's firm was picked for the job, but that's not even the issue that inspired Truhe's letter, which you can read here. Rather, it appears to be the numbers we wrote about last week, which suggest Goren's firm is actually doing more legal work than Goldstone and Truhe did. Truhe writes:

What makes no sense is that a firm with no health care expertise could replace two health care lawyers and instead of spending a fraction of their time doing the fraction of their work they are qualified to do while sending out the rest, [that firm] figures out how to do more.

Truhe suspects that he and Goldstone were doing more of the district's legal work in their 320 hours per month than Goren's firm is doing in roughly 400 hours per month. If indeed Goren's firm is milking the district for legal fees, who would know? Writes Truhe:

"Having terminated the only in-house lawyers with any regulatory or general counsel experience there is no one in a position to understand how the firm is managing the district's legal work, and they have a blank check to spend as much time researching any subject or writing as many memos as they can possibly defend with a straight face."
To be responsible custodians of the region's public health-care district, Truhe suggests commissioners should hire an attorney who is independent of Goren's firm and who's qualified to analyze its billings. He continues:
For an industry for which self-referral is a major regulatory issue contributing to the skyrocketing cost of health care, this situation is self-referral at its worst.
Truhe has a pending lawsuit against the district that alleges he and Goldstone were fired based on a desire to control ethics inquiries, rather than the explanation offered by commissioners to the public -- that the two had misled the board about the route they would take to gain admission to the Florida Bar. Truhe has also filed a bar complaint against Goren, alleging possible ethics violations in Goren's seizing the general counsel's job.

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Thomas Francis

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