A top Broward Health executive who resigned after a has received a six-figure payout in exchange for promising not to sue or disparage the public hospital system.
Doris Peek resigned July 20 as senior vice president of Broward Health, which runs five hospitals and various clinics, after a law firm hired by Broward Health accused her of improperly directing nearly $1.7 million to a company owned by a prominent Republican consultant. At the time of the report, Broward Health released a statement saying that it took the report “very seriously” and that “every individual at Broward Health is held accountable in order to uphold established legal and ethical standards.”
Peek’s severance agreement, released by Broward Health in response to a public records request from the Sun-Sentinel, states that she will receive $214,008, most of which represents six months’ severance and the rest accrued leave.
Under the agreement, , Peek may cooperate with any government investigators or regulators looking into Broward Health, a taxpayer-supported system legally known as the North Broward Hospital District. But she promised to not take Broward Health to court and “not engage in any activity either oral or written which disparage or adversely affect Broward Health.”
Such non-disparagement clauses are common in severance agreements, although they have been criticized for allowing employers to cover up problems.
Asked why Broward Health would agree to such a payment, considering the highly critical contents of the report, Broward Health’s public relations agency, EvClay Public Relations, released this statement: “It is the policy of Broward Health to not discuss severance agreements.” Pressed on the reason for this, the agency provided this statement: “We respect the privacy of our employees.”
The report on Peek’s actions was written by the law firm of Baker Donelson, hired by Broward Health to monitor its compliance with a 2015 agreement with the federal government to settle accusations of running an illegal compensation system for doctors.
The report says Peek engaged in “obsessive efforts” to steer excessive payments to a marketing firm owned by Ben Porritt, former national spokesman for John McCain’s presidential campaign. Porritt’s firm, Outside Eyes, later known as BHP Jumpstart, had a fixed-fee $246,000 contract with Broward Health. But the report said Peek and Porritt established a “secret side agreement” for additional services to be paid for outside proper contracting procedures, resulting in nearly $1.7 million in unauthorized payments.
Peek could not be reached for comment, and she has not commented previously on the report. Porritt has denied any wrongdoing, saying it was at the request of Broward Health that his firm did work outside the scope of the original contract. He recently sued Broward Health for non-payment.
Broward Health, which serves Broward County north of Griffin Road and relies partly on property taxes, is governed by a board appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. The system has been struggling since the suicide 18 months ago of its chief executive, Dr. Nabil El Sanadi. Since then, there has been a succession of interim CEOs, as the board went through an erratic process of finding a replacement, hiring a search firm, agreeing to interview candidates and then deciding to start over.
Last month, , citing weak finances and continued leadership turmoil.