Broward News

Hospital District Commish Now Under Criminal Investigation

The Broward State Attorney's Office has opened a criminal investigation of North Broward Hospital District Commissioner Joseph Cobo, based on allegations he used his public office for advantage in his private firm, Florida Medical Management Consultants.

Cobo, of course, was investigated by a former assistant U.S. prosecutor, Martin Goldberg, who found several instances of "credible" evidence that Cobo committed ethical violations. Goldberg delivered his report to the board last month. In a meeting on May 27, commissioners expressed faith that whatever ethics rules Cobo may have broken, he did so with "good intentions." They voted to send the report to Gov. Charlie Crist, not to the State Attorney's Office or the Florida Commission on Ethics.

But Goldberg's report is a public record, and the local prosecutor was under no obligation to wait for an invitation from the hospital district to pursue a criminal case.

This bombshell was the basis for an emergency meeting this afternoon at Broward General Medical Center. Because Goldberg had been hired by the board, he is bound by attorney-client privilege to not disclose conversations with them relating to the investigation. Acting General Counsel Sam Goren asked the commissioners to vote on whether to waive that privilege, which they did. That frees Goldberg to cooperate with prosecutors.

I spoke to Goren after the meeting, and he told me that the district would not be filling my public records request for documents generated by Goldberg's investigation. Knowing that open investigations are always conducted in a media blackout, it didn't occur to me that actually those documents should be available, if only because Goldberg was not investigating as a "criminal justice agency." I'm hoping to get back in touch with Goren this afternoon, and I'll update when/if I do.

More Juice coverage of the Cobo case here.

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Thomas Francis