Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Big News From Boca Regional; Boca Police Department Fires Officer

Boca Raton Regional Hospital has picked five prospective partners, and CEO Jerry Fedele will stay for another year. The second item relates to the first.

The hospital announced last week that its search committee had chosen five health care systems from the 12 applicants. In an interview, Fedele said he expects Boca Regional to choose its partner between June and August.

Fedele (pictured above) had said he would retire in August, after completing the 10 years as CEO he had promised and after turning 65. Because of the timetable, however, he agreed to remain until August 2019. The decision makes sense—the partnership will make Boca Regional a different operation, so the board will need to choose Fedele’s successor based on an applicable skill set. It will take time to determine what skills the hospital will need.

When Boca Regional was losing money in 2008, the board wanted a turnaround specialist and picked Fedele, under whom the hospital again became profitable. In the last few years, he has presided over the opening of several impressive facilities. A $260 million program will transform the main building and add a parking garage and power plants. Despite that success, Fedele acknowledged that even he might not be the best candidate to run Boca Regional under the new structure.

The finalists are:

  • Baptist Health South Florida. The system is based in Coral Gables and has 2,500 physicians and 25,000 employees. Almost all of its facilities are in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Last year, Baptist acquired Bethesda Healthcare, which has a 401-bed hospital in Boynton Beach and an 80-bed facility in West Boynton.
  • Cleveland Clinic. The system operates 20 hospitals, including one in Weston, on the western edge of Broward County. Cleveland Clinic owns 20 hospitals in all, most of them in Ohio but also one in the United Arab Emirates. It has the most recognizable national brand of any finalist.
  • Memorial Healthcare System. Officially known as the South Broward Hospital District, Memorial is the only taxpayer-supported finalist. It is based in Hollywood and primarily serves southern Broward County. The North Broward Hospital District, which operates as Broward Health, has made lots of bad news recently. Events culminated in the December indictment of the board chairman, interim CEO and two others for allegedly violating open-meetings laws. The board just hired the indicted CEO for the permanent job. In contrast, Memorial Health reported a $226 million operating surplus for 2016. That was more than a 50-percent increase.
  • Novant Health. This system of 1,500 doctors and 25,000 employees is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Most of its 14 hospitals are in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro/High Point and Charlotte metropolitan areas. Novant grew out of the 1997 merger of two chains.
  • Orlando Health. The system owns or operates nine hospitals in Central Florida, the main one being Orlando Regional Medical Center. One facility is a children’s hospital named for Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer and his wife. Orlando has 3,300 beds and 23,000 employees.

Boca Regional has about 800 primary and specialty physicians and roughly 2,250 employees. Though for-profits did apply, Boca Regional’s search committee stuck to the hospital’s priority of a not-for-profit partner.

Fedele said all the finalists could satisfy Boca Regional’s seven goals for the partnership: strengthening its position in the South Florida market; ensuring access to capital; improving and expanding care; helping with the shift to standards on which insurers and the government base reimbursements on outcomes, not just services; maintaining the academic partnership with the medical school at Florida Atlantic University; maintaining the “extraordinary community support” that led to creation of Boca Regional in 1967 and continues; and retaining “meaningful local government and influence.”

That last item likely is of most interest to those who work at, and donate to Boca Regional. It’s also the biggest question for the community: How would Boca Regional look and operate under the partnership?

Start with the basics. The name, Fedele said, would not go away. “It has tremendous value.” But it might get longer, to reflect the partner.

Beyond that, Fedele said, “It would be disingenuous to suggest that nothing will change.” The degree and type of change will depend on which system Boca Regional chooses. The goal, Fedele said, will be “keeping the good parts” of Boca Regional while deciding what the hospital must add not just to keep up with health care consolidation but to thrive in the new environment.

Over the next two weeks, the hospital will host the finalists for daylong presentations and a tour to “educate them about Boca Regional,” Fedele said. “Even the locals don’t know everything.”

In April, the finalists will conduct their due diligence on Boca Regional and come back to make what Fedele called “updated presentations.” After that, the search committee will cut the list to “maybe two or three.”

At that point, Fedele said, “intense negotiations” will begin. Boca Regional will conduct due diligence on the remaining finalists and visit them. Discussions with Memorial would be more involved because it levies a tax. “Our goal will be the best value we can get.”

Though the search committee will remain at between 12 and 15 members, Fedele said the hospital would seek additional participation and comment from a “broader group” with “representatives of all the constituencies.” Last week’s announcement, he said, was part of Boca Regional’s attempt “to be as transparent as possible.”

During our conversation, Fedele stressed again that Boca Regional approached this search “from a position of strength.” The hospital wasn’t worried about raising the $260 million for the next phase of redevelopment, but Fedele noted the need for “longer-term capital.”

As Fedele said, “The level of community ownership (of Boca Regional) is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” Seeking to change the hospital can seem scary, but Fedele’s message is that the change is essential—given trends within the industry—and will make Boca Regional better.

BRPD fires officer

The Boca Raton Police Department showed transparency last week by releasing all documents from the investigation that led to the firing Sgt. Jeremy Codling for making racist comments.

Codling was a 13-year veteran. According to the investigation, which began last June, Codling used the word “n****r” on the job and otherwise made racist and offensive comments. When someone mentioned that he might take blue roof tarps that were in storage at a city facility, Codling said, “I thought black people were always the ones who were stealing everything.”

Documents from the investigation show that Codling also forwarded to other officers text messages saying, “I used to think black people were just white people dipped in chocolate” and “What’s black and never works? Decaffeinated coffee you racist bastard.” Referring to a contractor who supplied explosives for a training exercise, Codling suggested that the African-American who came with him must have been his chauffeur.

According to the investigation, Sgt. Carl Desir, who called out Codling, said, “If you ever get accused of being racist, I will be the first person to stand up and support that person’s case.” Codling’s comments allegedly caused another officer to leave the department. Codling denied saying “n****r,” but the investigation concluded that there were grounds to substantiate a finding of conduct unbecoming of an officer.

After a so-so evaluation in 2012, Codling received nothing worse from 2013 through 2016 than a 4.55 performance review on a scale of 5. He also received several commendations. In a statement, however, the city and the department said they have “set high standards for our law enforcement officers. . .We have no tolerance for offensive or derogatory comments, including those of a racial nature. We will remain committed to an environment free of any form of harassment.”

A spokesman said the department believes that the incident was “isolated.”

Wednesday walkout

Speaking of police, high-school students in Florida have planned a walkout for Wednesday to mark the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Massacre. School board member Frank Barbieri, whose district includes Boca Raton and Delray Beach, has urged students not to leave campus, citing security concerns.

In Delray Beach, students at Atlantic High School apparently will stay. A spokeswoman said the police department expects a 17-minute “sit or lie down protest on campus.” That would not involve city police. A spokesman said the Boca Raton Police Department would “support” schools police offers “as needed” at Boca Raton and Spanish River high schools.

UPDATE: Barbieri said plans at both are for on-campus demonstrations.

Haynie faces additional opponent for commission seat

Mayor Susan Haynie
Mayor Susan Haynie

As of now, Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie has an opponent in the Republican primary for the District 4 seat on the Palm Beach County Commission.

Last week, William Vale filed paperwork to run. Actual qualifying isn’t until June. Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth is the only announced Democrat. Weinroth leaves the council this month.

Vale lives in Boca Del Mar, just outside the city. He and other residents who live on the closed Mizner Trail golf course opposed efforts to develop the property. In 2014, the county commission approved a proposal from Boca Raton-based Compson for 252 townhomes.

Vale and other members of the Boca Del Mar Improvement Association unsuccessfully challenged the approval. Vale then sued the county seeking compensation, alleging that the approval devalued his property. A judge recently dismissed the lawsuit, saying Vale should file his petition in state court.

Compson also sued Vale, alleging that he interfered with the company’s attempt to flip the property to Pulte Homes. The deal never happened. Nothing has been built. Compson eventually withdrew the lawsuit.

Campaign war chest updates

Monica Mayotte
Monica Mayotte

Monica Mayotte must have been worried that grass-roots contributions wouldn’t be enough against Armand Grossman in the race for Seat D on the Boca Raton City Council.

In her final campaign finance report, Mayotte listed a $25,000 check from herself. That goes with a $25,000 loan Mayotte made at the start of her campaign last fall. So based on the roughly $80,000 Mayotte reported, she has been more than 60 percent self-financed. Most of her private contributions are for no more than $100. Many of those are for $25.

Grossman got into the race very late, but he jolted things with a $50,000 loan that quickly paid for mailers. As of Feb. 23, Grossman raised about $83,000. He got $5,000 last month from individuals and entities associated with Crocker Partners, the largest landowner in Midtown. The next city council may approve rules for redevelopment of Midtown.

In the Seat C race, incumbent Jeremy Rodgers had raised about $66,000 through Feb. 23, or nearly twice as much as challenger Kim Do. Most of her money came from a $30,000 loan. She also lists a $1,000 contribution from Gerald Gagliardi, who is suing Boca Raton over approval of Chabad East Boca.

Interestingly, Do also lists a $1,000 in-kind contribution from BocaWatch. The website has been pumping Do’s candidacy. Do listed the contribution as in-kind for “publicity.” Perhaps that explains why BocaWatch, which masquerades as a news source, has thrown itself behind Do.

Delray races

Jim Chard
Jim Chard

Running for mayor in Delray Beach is getting expensive.

Jim Chard’s final campaign report shows contributions of about $109,000. Through Feb. 23, Shelly Petrolia had raised roughly $111,000. Petrolia, though, had loaned herself $36,000. Chard has made no loans. For perspective, Susan Haynie raised about $137,000 for her 2017 mayoral run in Boca Raton, which has one-third more residents than Delray Beach.

In Seat 3, incumbent Mitch Katz and challenger Ryan Boylston remain very close in fundraising. Through Feb. 23, Boylston had about $60,000 and Katz had about $59,000. The race itself is expected also to be close.

Adam Frankel remains at about $53,000 in Seat. 1. Eric Camacho remains at $200, having decided that he would not solicit contributions.

In my Thursday post, I’ll wrap up the elections in both cities.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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