A Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury has slapped a subpoena on Broward Health, demanding records related to an ongoing FBI investigation focused on the hospital district’s purchasing practices, two knowledgeable sources have told FloridaBulldog.org.
The subpoena, served earlier this month, is said to seek information about former procurement officer Brian Bravo and 16 companies that do business with Broward Health, the public hospital system for Broward County north of Griffin Road. They include MedAssets, a Georgia-based group purchasing organization for the Broward system and other hospitals with a market capitalization of $1.87 billion.
The name of veteran Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil is on the subpoena.
“I’m told the [administrative] staff is on shutdown, spending hours finding all these documents,” one source said.
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Broward Health’s attorneys declined to release a copy of the federal grand jury subpoena, saying it is exempt from disclosure under Florida’s public records law.
Commissioner Joel Gustafson, asked if he was aware of the grand jury’s subpoena, said, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that question. We’ve been admonished not to talk about any alleged investigation. If I find that I can, I’ll call you back.”
At the same time, FloridaBulldog.org learned that top Broward Health staff — chief executive Kevin Fusco, general counsel Lynn Barrett and security director and ethics officer Carlos Perez-Irizarry — have phoned board members to privately update them on the status of the criminal investigation. The move avoided a public discussion of those details.
Commissioners were told that district administrators, criticized in Miami-based investigator Wayne Black’s email for having blocked the FBI’s investigation, are cooperating and turning over requested records, although no time frame for compliance was given.
One of the items turned over: Bravo’s laptop.
Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, compiled by the attorney general’s office, cites a 1979 appeals court ruling that held a series of private meetings between a school board superintendent and individual members of the school board were subject to the Sunshine Law.
“While normally meetings between the school superintendent and an individual school board member would not be subject [to the Sunshine Law], these meetings were held in ‘rapid-fire succession’ in order to avoid a public airing of a controversial redistricting problem,” the manual says.
Joe Jacquot, a lawyer with the Foley Lardner law firm that represents Broward Health, said private updates for commissioners don’t violate the Sunshine Law.
Florida Bulldog is a not-for-profit news organization created to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. Contributions are tax-deductible. www.floridabulldog.org