Broward News

Hospital Commissioners Argue Over Next Lawyer

Tension nearly boiled over at this morning's meeting of the North Broward Hospital District's Board as commissioners broached the touchy topic of the district's next general counsel. The seven-member panel appears divided over whether to speed that process or slow it down, given the flux at the position over the past several years.

Since the district fired general counsel Marc Goldstone in mid-May, the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Sam Goren has filled in. But commissioners want to move fast in finding permanent replacement. Whoever it is would be the sixth lawyer to lead the district's legal department in just four years.

Not exactly a record likely to attract top applicants. And in the past month, questions have been raised about whether the board acted too quickly and haphazardly in terminating Goldstone.

Commissioner Maureen Jaeger asked for the board's approval in ordering district CEO Frank Nask to phone Mark Thomas, the attorney who was one vote shy of getting the job that went to Goldstone, to ask whether he was still interested in the job.

Apparently, though, there were concerns about Thomas' personality -- "edgy" was the word one commissioner used to describe it. Also, although he had managed-care experience, he had little experience in hospital dealings with doctors.

Commissioner Robert Bernstein said Jaeger had a "great idea" and suggested that if Thomas were still on the market that the district's executive staff should spend more time with him to see whether they develop better chemistry than was possible during the interview process last time.

This all seemed to be moving way too fast for Commissioner Rhonda Calhoun, who resented the assumption by Bernstein that Thomas was the commission's second choice. "He was not my No. 2, Robert," snapped Calhoun at one point.

Board Chairman Mike Fernandez seemed to take Calhoun's view -- that another national search was in order. Korn Ferry had conducted the last search and was offering to conduct a new one after its recommended candidate, Goldstone, lasted only six months. But that experience is exactly why Bernstein wanted a change.

"I don't want anything to do with Korn Ferry," he declared. Fernandez broke in to remind him of Korn Ferry's offer. "Because they'll do it for free?" Bernstein asked.

"Exactly," said Fernandez.

"They've done shit for us," said Bernstein.

That seemed to be the signal to commissioners that they should put off the subject to another meeting. Nask said he'd call Thomas, then report back.

Commissioners Rebecca Stoll and Joseph Cobo (who is facing a criminal investigation based on findings of possible ethics violations) were not at the meeting.

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Thomas Francis