Jeremy Alford

Florida newspaper scrutinizes Jindal's DHH pick

by Jeremy Alford

When Alan Levine was tapped as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals earlier this year, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal described him as a “superstar.” But in a report dubbed “Bleeding Dollars,” the New Times of Broward-Palm Beach, an alternative newsweekly in south Florida, offers another take on Levine.

Before heading to the Pelican State, Levine was the top administrator at the North Broward Hospital District (prior to that he worked for another GOP heavyweight — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush). But when he left the Florida hospital gig to head further west, Levine left more than an empty desk behind, according to the New Times. Here’s a sampling from the story :
Levine never moved to Broward, though he got moving expenses. Not only did Levine, a rising star in national GOP circles, negotiate a deal that would pay him a hefty $670,000 in salary and bonuses but he also received a car allowance and a secret $35,000 payment to relocate to Broward County. It’s the relocation payment — along with a few personal travel expenses Levine charged to the district — that has caused some controversy at the district. The hospital agency, which now goes by the name Broward Health, is supported with taxpayer dollars. The controversy arises because Levine, who left the district at the beginning of this year to take a job as Louisiana’s top public health official, never actually relocated. The questionable payments to Levine were discovered in a recent review by the auditing department, and the revelations do more than sully Levine’s squeaky-clean image. They also provide more evidence of the district’s dubious spending on high-ranking employees. The public health system, which runs five hospitals, including flagship Broward General, often behaves like a big-spending corporation, and taxpayers, who have pumped $200 million into it, are left holding the bill. Levine’s relocation agreement primarily covered the “reasonable cost of moving the newly recruited employee’s household goods from Tallahassee, FL to the Fort Lauderdale area,” according to a copy of the document that he signed on July 19, 2006. Those household goods, however, stayed in Tallahassee with his wife and teenaged daughter. Instead of relocating, he rented an apartment and traveled every weekend to the family home while serving as CEO for the district. Further, Levine produced no receipts, though the agreement specifies that he is to be reimbursed. Despite the lack of documentation, Levine was paid the $35,000 in a lump sum.