Taking longer to count ballots than they did to interview any single candidate, the members of a nominating committee on Monday selected four finalists for two vacancies on the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s $1.5 billion-a-year public hospital network.
The finalists were chosen from five candidates, each interviewed for 30 minutes by seven members of the committee.
After spending nearly an hour trying to reach agreement on the best method to rank candidates, cast votes and tally the results, the committee recommended two candidates for each vacancy. The County Commission will select and appoint the new hospital board members this summer.
Peter Bermont, a financial broker and adviser who chairs the hospital system board’s pension plan subcommittee, received the most votes, followed by Irene Lipof, a Jackson trustee whose term expires May 31. The other top-ranked candidates were Ralph Patino, a trial attorney and member of the Democratic National Finance Committee, and Daniel Kavanaugh, a retired attorney and former committee counsel in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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The four finalists still must pass background checks. The commission could vote to approve two new trustees as early as its meeting on June 3.
One prominent candidate, Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale, 73, president of St. Thomas University, withdrew his name as a candidate last week, saying he’d reconsidered his decision to apply.
Bermont, 69, appeared to be the preferred candidate. The nominating committee voted 6-1 to forward his name to Miami-Dade commissioners before they had even established the procedure for ranking the candidates.
After naming Bermont as their top finalist, the nominating committee reconsidered the action and spent nearly an hour establishing a selection process and casting and counting votes.
In his interview, Bermont identified one of Jackson’s biggest challenges as “really getting the community to understand how terrific this place is, and the wonderful services that are offered here.’’
A former chairman and board member of Miami Children’s Hospital, he offered a hint of how Jackson might market itself: “There’s a lot of different ways to do it — limited services in different pockets — but it’s all about the brand, making it work.’’
He said he was committed to Jackson’s public mission, saying that even medical services that are not profitable should be maintained if needed.
Lipof, 67, emphasized her experience on Jackson’s board: “There’s no learning curve for me.’’
Lipof first joined Jackson’s board as a labor union appointee. Joe Arriola, a trustee, asked if she could remain independent when making decisions, including labor contract votes.
She responded by saying that she listens to “all of the issues, all the sides,” and votes independently.
Patino, 57, proposed marketing Jackson’s services to patients in Latin America, and fundraising campaigns to increase public support for Jackson’s programs.
“We happen to have a continent underneath us called South America that uses Miami as a gateway,” he said.
The nominating committee did not ask Patino about an IRS tax lien placed against his home in February 1996 for $34,000. Patino satisfied his debt to the IRS, and the lien was lifted three months later, according to public records.
He said after the interview that the lien was filed because “a bookkeeper held back some tax payments,” adding that the experience would not hinder his service on the board, which includes financial oversight.
Kavanaugh, 80, serves on an ethics committee for Jackson and was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He told the nominating committee that the health system must start looking ahead now that the financial crisis that nearly bankrupted it has abated.
Among Kavanaugh’s ideas for Jackson: forge a stronger partnership with the University of Miami, which provides more than 90 percent of the physicians to Jackson Memorial, as well as medical and administrative services, for about $117 million a year.
“If we could augment and increase the involvement with the University of Miami medical school,’’ he said, “it could be an important step to take.’’
Following the interviews, Jackson board chairman Darryl Sharpton urged his colleagues to focus on what’s needed for Jackson.
“We need visionaries,’’ he said. “We need individuals that have transformative skill sets. We need independent thinkers. We need someone who can help coalesce, understanding we have a couple of Type A personalities here.’’
Also Monday, the nominating committee approved a timetable for selecting a citizens’ advisory panel to oversee spending of $830 million in public funds approved by voters in November for upgrades to the aging public hospital system.
Advertisements calling for applications will be placed in local newspapers for two weeks beginning June 11, with an application deadline of 4 p.m., June 26. The County Commission is expected to choose the panel in September.