Our local Republican party has a strong history of not running candidates against Republican incumbents. Yet each of the five Republican incumbent hospital board members is facing a Republican challenger in the August 26th primary. A reliable source has shared that Rick Scott is supporting the slate of Republican challengers.
Why would Governor Scott do this? In March 2013 the current hospital board voted against privatizing Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The hospital board was required to review whether it made sense to sell due to a law passed by the state legislature in 2012. Prior to the state law requiring hospitals to review their public non-profit status, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order in March 2011 appointing a commission to scrutinize the performance and costs of hospitals operated by local governments. Neither effort resulted in what Scott wants: the sale and privatization of Sarasota Memorial. So he is taking another approach. He is looking to hijack our hospital board.
Governor Scott was the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA. He resigned in 1997 as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA amid an FBI investigation over the company’s business and Medicare billing practices. The company ultimately admitted to fourteen felonies and agreed to pay the federal government 1.7 billion dollars, the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud settlement in US history. In another case against HCA, Scott took the fifth amendment 75 times.
Two challengers to the incumbent Republicans are political red flags. David Garofalo is a former North Port City Commissioner challenging incumbent Darryl Henry. Garofalo lost his re-election bid in 2012 amid controversy over DUI and battery arrests:
Jack Brill is challenging incumbent Robert Strasser. Brill is a local Republic party official and the father of Victoria Brill. In May 2012, Miss Brill (24 years old at the time) filed to run as a write-in candidate for Supervisor of Elections (SOE) , effectively closing what would have been an open Republican primary race between Jon Thaxton and Kathy Dent. When the only candidates running for office are from one party, the Florida constitution requires the primary be open (so everyone can vote in primaries that determine who holds office). But when there is any opposition in the general election – a write-in candidate – the primary is closed. Exploiting what is widely referred to as the “write-in loophole”, Miss Brill’s candidacy effectively disenfranchised over 150,000 Sarasota County voters.
Miss Brill did not attend a single debate, nor did she engage in any fundraising. She acknowledged from the outset that her intention was to ensure that the primary race between Dent and Thaxton include only Republican voters. As a result, over 150,000 Democrats, No Party Affiliates (NPA) and others were denied the right to vote in the SOE race.
After Kathy Dent’s August 14th primary win, a public records request was submitted for Miss Brill’s candidate paperwork on September 3, 2012. The next day Miss Brill resigned her job in Reston, Virginia (yes, Virginia) and on September 5th she withdrew as a candidate from the Supervisor of Elections race.
As it’s clearly unusual for a 24 year-old with a full time job in another state to run for office, its reasonable to assume her father may have influenced her decision to act as the write-in spoiler to prevent non-Republicans from voting. With such a clear history of embracing divisive partisan politics in the Brill family, concerns about Jack Brill politicizing the hospital board are well-founded.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital is an example of excellence in the public sector that provides services other hospitals have cut. SMH is the only local hospital on U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 Best Hospitals list. Sarasota Memorial is ranked among Florida’s top 10 hospitals and is the top-performer for overall care in the Sarasota-Bradenton region. SMH is one of just 3 percent of all hospitals to earn a national ranking. Our hospital provides NICU (neonatal intensive care) and OB/GYN services that are not available at local for-profit hospitals. For profit hospitals have determined these services do not benefit their bottom line. It is imperative for our community health and prosperity, particularly the health of our women and children, that SMH remain a nonprofit, public sector institution.
We must keep our incumbent hospital board members – Darryl Henry, Robert Strasser, Gregory Carter, Joseph DeVirgilio and Richard Merritt – in office.
Hospital Board Central District, Seat 2
Joseph J DeVirgilio (Incumbent) (REP) Qualified
Michael A. Sutphin (REP) Qualified
Hospital Board Northern District, Seat 1
Stefan E. Butz (REP) Qualified
Richard Merritt (Incumbent) (REP) Qualified
Hospital Board Northern District, Seat 2
John (Jack) Brill (REP)
Robert K. Strasser (Incumbent) (REP)
Hospital Board Southern District, Seat 1
David Garofalo (REP)
Darryl W Henry (Incumbent) (REP)
Hospital Board Southern District, Seat 2
Gregory A. Carter (Incumbent) (REP)
Lydia Tower (REP)