Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of Broward reinstatement order dismissed as 'stall tactic' by appointee David Di Pietro
Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of a judge's rejection of his suspension of a political appointee is being criticized as a "stall tactic" by the man at the center of the controversy, David Di Pietro, who wants his unpaid but influential position back as soon as possible.
Moreover, not only does Di Pietro predict he'll beat Scott in court a second time, but he says that when he's finally reinstated to the governing board of Broward Health, he should return to the chairmanship that he held before Scott suspended him.
Di Pietro, a 36-year-old Fort Lauderdale lawyer, was suspended by Scott by executive order on March 18 at the urging of the governor's chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, on grounds of "malfeasance" as Broward Health was reeling from the suicide of its CEO, a federal grand jury investigation and a thicket of allegations of impropriety. Di Pietro sued Scott and won when Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruled Monday that Scott failed to assert a single allegation of malfeasance.
The judge ordered Scott to reinstate Di Pietro "forthwith," but acting on Scott's behalf, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an appeal Tuesday with the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The action was taken by Bill Stafford and Blaine Winship, the same lawyers who unsuccessfully argued Scott's case in circuit court.
"I'm confident that Judge Phillips' well-reasoned order will be upheld," Di Pietro told the Times/Herald. "This (appeal) is nothing more than a stall tactic by Gov. Scott."
Di Pietro said that if Scott prevails, it will have a chilling effect on thousands of Scott political appointees around the state, who could be suspended from office on a vague allegation of malfeasance.
"If precedent is set that the governor can remove somebody because of their perceived ability to influence a board on a policy issue, then the governor should run every organization, every city, every county, every hospital district in this entire state. He should run it right out of Tallahassee," Di Pietro said.
Fort Lauderdale lawyer Bruce Green, a member of Di Pietro's legal team, said Scott's appeal stays Phillips' order, blocking Di Pietro's reinstatement to the board of the North Broward Hospital District. The seven-member board is two members short. Scott also suspended Darryl Wright, the head of the board's auditing committee, but Wright did not challenge his suspension.
The DCA may or may not hear oral arguments before it decides on Scott's appeal, Green said. There are 12 lawyers on the West Palm Beach-based DCA, and three of them were appointed by Scott: Burton Conner in 2011, Alan Forst in 2013 and Mark Klingensmith in 2013.
Scott built Columbia/HCA into the nation's largest for-profit hospital system and has been publicly critical of tax-supported hospitals like those run by Broward Health. In an earlier interview, Di Pietro said he has talked about health care policy with Scott only once, before Scott appointed him the first time, in 2011. "He asked me questions like, "There's four kinds of models in health care. There's special taxing districts, not-for-profits, for-profits that are subsidized at some level, and then there's purely for-profit. Which ones do you think are better?'" Di Pietro said. "So I answered the latter."