Miami-Dade’s Public Health Trust seeks to fill seat

Four finalists made the cut Friday to interview for an opening on the Public Health Trust, the board that runs Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s $1.5 billion-a-year safety-net hospital network.

But the nominating committee’s favored candidate — Jose Ramon Mas reported a potential conflict of interest that now will be reviewed by the county’s Commission on Ethics and Public Trust before his nomination will move forward.

Miami-Dade’s County Commission ultimately will select and appoint the hospital board member from the nominating committee’s recommendation in October. One nominee and two alternates must be recommended by Sept. 13.

Mas, chief executive of the engineering and construction company MasTec, received more votes than any of the other eight Miami-Dade residents who applied to serve on the hospital board — despite the fact that Mas reported a potential conflict of interest on his application: his brother, Juan Carlos Mas, is a member of Miami Children’s Hospital’s board of directors.

Under the strict ethics standards for members of Jackson’s board, immediate family members cannot have a “material interest” that competes with Miami-Dade’s public hospital system, according to county attorneys who advised the committee.

Jackson’s Holtz Children’s Hospital competes with Miami Children’s for patients in a number of medical services, including obstetrics and pediatric cardiology.

Several members of the nominating committee, including Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, questioned the stringent ethical standard, which is identical to the one that applies to county commissioners.

“After all,’’ Edmonson said to a county attorney, “there’s no pillow talk’’ between Mas and his brother.

Marcus Lapciuc, a Jackson board member, said he, too, found the ethics standards excessive, and that he worried they would disqualify “90 percent’’ of applicants.

“We want to encourage applicants to apply,” he said.

The four finalists culled from a pool of nine applicants are Mas; Daniel Kavanaugh, a retired attorney and former committee counsel in the U.S. House of Representatives; Robin Reiter-Faragalli, a past member of Jackson’s board and former interim president of the Beacon Council; and Calixto Garcia, a neuropsychologist with extensive experience in public health.

If the county’s ethics commission clears Mas of any conflict, then Garcia will be removed from the list. It is unclear if the ethics commission will rule by Sept. 13, the deadline to recommend nominees to the County Commission.

Mas has at least one other potential conflict of interest that the nominating committee did not discuss, and which he did not report on his board application: Mas and his brothers have become investors in the recapitalization of U.S. Century Bank.

Carlos Migoya, Jackson’s chief executive, also is an investor in U.S. Century Bank.

Valda Clark Christian, an assistant county attorney who advises the hospital board, said after the meeting that because both men are investors in the bank, it presents a potential conflict.

“It raises questions,’’ she said.

Mas, scion of one of Miami-Dade’s most prominent Cuban-American families, signed his application for Jackson’s board vacancy on July 30.

In August, Mas told the Herald that he and his brothers will have one of the largest investments in the bank, through their private equity firm, Mas Equity Partners.

Mas did not attend Friday’s meeting, and he could not be immediately reached for comment.

Joe Arriola, a member of the hospital board who also sits on the nominating committee, said after the meeting that the county’s ethics commission would be asked to also rule on Mas’s investment in U.S. Century Bank as a potential conflict to serving on the board.

The board vacancy was created in June when past member Stephen Nuell resigned amid a county ethics investigation that found “probable cause” Nuell — a personal injury attorney — abused his public position to benefit himself and his law firm by contacting members of Jackson’s business office in attempts to resolve claims for private legal clients who owed money to the hospital.

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