JOSÉ E. PÉREZ
Editor’s note – Mr. Perez made these remarks at a meeting of the Miami-Dade chapter of the National Alumni Association of Bethune-Cookman University.
In the 8th chapter of the book of Mark, 36th verse, the question is asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
As was shared earlier, our alma mater has made the decision to “honor” current Florida Governor Rick Scott during the Third Annual Legacy Gala on Wednesday, October 21 of this year. This has sparked concern for some and outrage for those who are aware.
Check the petition
A petition on change.org protesting this decision lays out the case against having Gov. Scott being recognized by Bethune-Cookman University, so I won’t go into the list of grievances therein. I certainly invite and encourage all present and attentive to see for themselves.
I am compelled to address briefly yet forcefully this development in my capacity as a graduate of Bethune-Cookman, as a leader in alumni circles, and as the kind of person that Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune made her life mission to cultivate: a man of conviction, principles, and honor.
At our football game tonight against South Carolina State, we’re having a #blackout. In the (Daytona Beach) Ocean Center on the 21st, we’re having a #sellout.
I can’t speak much plainer than that. I shall explain my viewpoint.
Why I’m troubled
First of all, it goes beyond – and back again – to Gov. Scott. Another honoree during the Lost Legacy Gala is the CEO of Halifax Health Systems, Jeff Feasel. This is profoundly troubling for the following reasons:
Feasel has been beset by calls for his sacking due to what the Daytona Beach News-Journal called “his unsatisfactory provision of [a] Medicare fraud lawsuit as well as other incidents.” According to another published report by the News-Journal, those other incidents include “$120 million in legal and settlement costs related to [the] Medicare fraud suit [and] the loss of accreditation for the hospital’s general surgery residency program.”
Also per the News-Journal, the aforementioned legal and settlement costs as well as the insurance fraud stem back to a “former Halifax Health compliance officer [who] filed a whistleblower suit in 2009 accusing the hospital of improperly billing Medicare and maintaining illegal contracts with some of its doctors.” The controversy and subsequent circling of the wagons that have kept Feasel in his gilded throne prompted high-ranking Halifax officials to resign in protest.
Feasel has close ties with both (B-CU) Board Chair (Joe) Petrock, serving with him on the Daytona Beach Community Foundation Board for the past several years – and not surprisingly – Gov. Scott.
Outrage and alarm
As per published reports and tax records, Feasel was paid almost $600,000 base salary in 2013 by Halifax with an additional $300,000 paid to his retirement plan “on top of retirement benefits that hospital employees receive.” Undisclosed so far is the extent of compensation Feasel has received thus far from serving as an appointee to Scott’s Commission for Healthcare and Hospital Funding.
Given the governor’s jaw-dropping $1.7 BILLION in fines paid for his own Medicare fraud hijinks while he was head of Columbia/HCA AND the fact that with a net worth of almost $150 million, Scott is the richest governor Florida has ever had, there should be outrage and alarm over the inclusion of Feasel in this pirate’s gala.
Thus, when I think of the gala’s top honorees, I am reminded of what Sir Alec Guiness said in the character of Obi Wan Kenobi in the motion picture, Star Wars: “you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
Please note that all that I have shared with you has been from the heart and the head, and I ask that the hand of our recording secretary enter all of this into the record of this meeting. Please quote me.
I implore all of Mary’s children to stand up for what is right and say no to greed. Our Founder’s Legacy, our alma mater’s history, our university community’s values are not for sale.
I’ll close my comments by quoting from the Last Will and Testament of Mother Mary who cautioned that, “the Negro in America must be ever vigilant lest his forces be marshaled behind wrong causes.” Selling one’s integrity for a pile of cash is always a wrong cause.
José E. Pérez is vice president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the National Alumni Association of Bethune-Cookman University. He graduated with the Class of 1991.