Last year, during a task force meeting at Florida International University, he surprised some panel members by arguing that regulators should stop imposing fines on homes that break the law — and that any money from sanctions should go back to the homes to fix the problems.
“This affects the impartiality of the AHCA surveyors,” he said. “Fines should not be considered an income source [for the state] to shore up funding issues.”
Bentley Lipscomb, a former secretary for the Department of Elder Affairs, blasted the idea of dropping fines, saying they serve as a crucial deterrent.
“When are people going to wake up and realize that people are dying in these places? What’s it going to take?”
Regardless of whatever ideas come from the task force, advocates are skeptical that lawmakers will adopt them.
Just last year, The Miami Herald published a series, entitled “Neglected to Death,” that found dozens of people dying of abuse and neglect, with caretakers tying frail residents with ropes and forcing them into closets. But the task force appointed by the governor to recommend reforms saw its proposals killed in the House.
It was during those task force meetings that Sherberg clashed with advocates — even as he was battling regulators over the fine slapped on his home and incurring new violations.
Pat Lange, executive director of FALA, said Sherberg is “one of the most knowledgeable people in Florida on issues faced by ALFs — whether operational, financial or regulatory,” and should not be judged on his home’s recent inspections.
“No regulation is ever going to prevent or completely eliminate incidents,” she said.
But state Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican who served on the task force last year with Sherberg, said he spent years fighting reforms — including two bills she proposed since 2008 — created to save lives.
“He needs to not be spending so much time [lobbying] anyway, and making sure the residents in his homes, his facilities, are properly cared for,” said Storms, who began pushing reforms after an ALF resident in her area was found languishing with a cancerous growth eating his face. “People who are appointed to the task force should have hands that are as clean as possible.”