Broward News

Jaeger Bomb: Broward Health Commissioner Accused of Using Office for "Personal Agenda"

In a memo she wrote in April 2008, three weeks before resigning as general counsel of the North Broward Hospital District, Laura Seidman alleged that Commissioner Maureen Jaeger "misused her public office for her personal agenda."

Jaeger, Rebecca Stoll and Joseph Cobo are the three Broward Health commissioners who Seidman accused of committing ethical lapses. The memo turned up in the course of an internal investigation of Cobo, who's now under criminal investigation.

According to Seidman, former district CEO Alan Levine "has a tape recording of a voicemail left by Commisssioner Jaeger asking him to give hospital business to her brother-in-law."

Levine left the district in January 2008 after being appointed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to be the state's Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals. He did not respond to a message left with his office. UPDATE: Bob Norman had Levine's cell and got an interview in which the former CEO confirms details in Seidman's memo. He posted that interview on Pulp.

Jaeger was a Broward operative for Charlie Crist's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, and she's now a special regional assistant for his office.

In the April 2008 memo, Seidman writes that in 2006, outside a Wings Plus where they'd been meeting as the Coral Springs / Parkland Republican Club, Jaeger asked Seidman to expedite the agreement between the district and the Coral Springs Community Redevelopment Agency "because her friend, the developer who was doing the work and making the money on the CRA for Coral Springs, was going to give the soon-to-be governor an office in one of his buildings."

Seidman has told me in the past that she's not permitted to speak about her time as general council of the hospital district. A message left with Jaeger was not immediately returned.

Seidman says in her memo that she was "floored" by Jaeger's request. And though she ultimately agreed that the district should re-pay its debt to the Coral Springs CRA -- which was apparently holding up a project by the developer friend of Crist -- the episode convinced Seidman that Jaeger was "using her influence as a commissioner to get free campaign space for Charlie Crist," and that the commissioner's conduct was "wholly improper."

Thus far, Crist's office has kept the scandals involving his appointees at the North Broward Hospital District at an arm's length, telling Juice last month that it's following the developments closely. But the Seidman memo suggests that back in the fall of 2007, it played a more intimate role.

The former general counsel claimed that Crist's former chief of staff, George Lemieux, had orchestrated a "deal" with Broward Health commissioners that would "keep the situation down here from becoming an embarrassing public spectacle that reflected badly upon the governor's office." Among those measures, Stoll would step down as board chair, which she did at the October 2007 meeting, leading to a re-shuffling of the commissioner's roles. Mike Fernandez, a fraternity brother of the governor, was made the board's new chair, where he remains today.

But if Stoll's resignation as chair came at Lemieux's request, she didn't make reference to it in her public remarks. "She stated the reason for doing this is simply because she cannot work with the CEO (Levine) and the General Counsel," say the minutes for that October 2007 meeting.

An associate at Lemieux's law office in Tallahassee told me that he's out of town today. I hope to speak to him when he gets back. For more on what the memo said about Stoll's activities, check out this post from earlier today.

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Thomas Francis