Good for them

The light of day needs to be shed on this settlement.

Six Republican state lawmakers have turned to the courts to help them pry open sealed whistleblower records from Grady Hospital.

A motion filed in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday said the state Legislature is being asked to bail Grady out and needs the information from the sealed whistleblower settlement agreement to help figure out the root causes of Grady’s financial crisis.

The AP reports that the legislators involved are

Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, of Savannah, Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, of Lyons, Sen. David Shafer, of Duluth, Sen. Dan Moody, of Alpharetta; Rep. John Lunsford, of McDonough; and Rep. Melvin Everson, of Snellville.

20 comments

  1. Erick says:

    ugavi, I wonder how many legislatures nationwide are like that. Congress is, the LA legislature is, the CA legislature is, etc. I suspect none really want us to see how the laws are made.

  2. 3 Cheers for Dr Murtagh. Good point Ugavi. We want to watch Erick, we’ve had our belly full of political rhetoric for now, the facts man, the facts…

    “The lawmakers are seeking records in a whistleblower case filed by former Grady physician James J. Murtagh Jr. He said he alleged the misuse of federal research dollars he was subjected to a bad faith peer review by Grady and Emory University. The case was settled and the settlement was sealed.”

  3. ugavi says:

    Erick,
    Great question, I don’t know the answer.

    I agree with your suspicions.

    I just find it ironic that they want to open up a closed legal documents, yet they don’t want to open themselves up to the same requirements that are put on Constitutional Officers, county, and local officials.

  4. griftdrift says:

    Can you hear that? It’s the Atlanta Legal Community slowly lurching from their slumber.

    I foresee a tangle of legal issues including but not limited to the need to remove a mutually agreed seal, the question of the ability of any agency which receives public funds even being able to enter into a settlement with a seal, patient confidentiality and lord knows what else a bunch of lizard shoe or Jimmy Choo wearing hired guns can think of.

    Should be fascinating to watch.

  5. atlantaman says:

    Perhaps there is a good reason the Legislature needs to be exempted from open records requests. I’m guessing there is something unique about the Legislature versus other elected and government officials. It would be great to hear from one of the Legislators on this topic.

  6. True, the Open Records Act applies to the executive branch of government. Other laws and rules apply to the operation of the legislative and judicial branches.

    Our motion is not about enforcement of the Open Records Act — sealed court documents are in fact exempt. It is about the propriety of using court seals to hide evidence of alleged wrongdoing by public officials.

    Court seals are to be used sparingly and never contrary to the public interest. Quoting from a Georgia Supreme Court decision: “Public access protects litigants both present and future, because justice faces its gravest threat when courts dispense it secretly. Our system abhors star chamber proceedings with good reason. Like a candle, court records hidden under a bushel make scant contribution to their purpose.”

    We believe the case files contain information bearing on the current public policy debate, and I am hopeful that the judge will unseal them.

  7. ugavi says:

    Senator Shafer,
    Thanks you for taking the time to respond, I understand the distinction between your request and the Open Records Act.

    Why doesn’t the legislature amend the Open Records Act to include the legislative branch?

  8. atlantaman says:

    Senator Shafer-

    Thanks for the repsonse and for the record I’m a big fan of what you’re doing. Good luck in getting access to the most elitest ivory tower in the Southeast.

  9. atlantaman says:

    Good one rugby_fan; obviously I didn’t have the grades to get into Emory.

    Perhaps the best solution for Grady is to turn it into a free bus terminal with a direct route to Crawford Long. Might give Emory a taste of their own medicine.

  10. Five minutes after my last comment, I was called downtown for an emergency hearing at which Judge Wendy Shoob granted our motion and unsealed the records. I will post more later at http://www.davidshafer.org.

    Ugaiv, if you have a bill you want me to propose, I am happy to look at it, but in practice the General Assembly is compliant with the requirements of the open meetings and records laws. All bills, meeting notices, committee reports and even videotapes of our sessions are posted at our website. Our expense accounts are open for inspection. What exactly are we not making available to the public?

  11. ugavi says:

    Sen. Shafer,
    Emails, phone logs, memo’s to other legislators or constituents? Other entities have to provide them under open records requests.

  12. ugavi says:

    Sen. Shafer,
    Thanks you for looking into it. It would be nice to see all elected officals at parity when it comes to open records.

  13. Chris says:

    I find it highly disturbing that tax payer funds were being used to “buy the silence” of someone who has information regarding a serious public policy matter in this state.

    How can is be ok to pay tax payer funds to someone so that they won’t disparage a public entity?

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