A new lawsuit alleges the Tulare Local Healthcare District, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, and others associated with the two entities are violating the California Public Records Act.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by Deanne Martin-Soares and Emily Yenigues against the TLHCD, HCCA, and Does 1-100, details what Soares and Yenigues claim are violations of the California Public Records Act, the California law that allows citizens to request public documents from public entities.
Martin-Soares, one of the members of Citizens for Hospital Accountability, and a former TLHCD Board Member, said that the suit comes after numerous requests.
It is with regret that I must resort to legal action to persuade the Tulare Local Healthcare District and HCCA, to provide transparency by producing documents, under the California Records Act. Although I have made several records requests over the past 7 months, my requests have been reasonable and respectful of the limited resources of TRMC. Unfortunately, under HCCA’s management, I continued to get untimely responses and/or excuses as to why these request cannot be honored in a reasonable and timely manner. I sincerely hope that HCCA will, upon the filing of this complaint, realize that they are responsible and reportable to the public for their management of our public entity.
“I have not seen any lawsuit and I know nothing about it,” said Bruce Greene, contracted counsel for both the District and HCCA.
The Voice has lodged requests for comment with the District and HCCA and is awaiting reply.
Soares and Yenigues seek declarations that the District has not complied with multiple Public Records Act requests, and additionally ask the court to prohibit the District from requiring citizens to file their requests with Bruce Greene, the District’s contracted, Los Angeles-based attorney.
Prior articles by the Voice detail difficulties citizens, and the paper, have had receiving documents from the Tulare Local Healthcare District, but this is the first CPRA related lawsuit against the District since it began its partnership with HCCA.
In the suit, Martin-Soares alleges that the District withheld documents relating to compensation for District/HCCA CFO Alan Germany even though public records showed that such documents existed.
Yenigues, in the second complaint, states that she was prevented from filing any Public Records Act requests at the Tulare hospital, and was told by an employee that no staff were authorized to accept such requests. All requests, the employee stated, had to be processed through Greene. She states she was given a card with information to contact Greene, but alleges that the information on that card was inaccurate.
In the third complaint, Martin-Soares alleges that she was refused access to viewing files located at the hospital. The California Public Records act allows citizens the right to inspect records at a government facility during normal business hours.
The fourth complaint in the suit requests a permanent injunction that would prevent employees of the District and HCCA from refusing to accept California Public Records Act requests or redirecting those requests to outside legal counsel.
View the full filing below, along with the exhibits mentioned in the suit. To see each annotated section of the filing, click on “Notes.”