Education

UK sues Herald-Leader in open records case over failed cardiology deal

UK redacted all billing details from 14 pages of a November 2015 invoice from Sheppard Mullin, a Washington, D.C. law firm that has helped UK with federal billing problems at a Hazard cardiology firm it acquired in 2013.
UK redacted all billing details from 14 pages of a November 2015 invoice from Sheppard Mullin, a Washington, D.C. law firm that has helped UK with federal billing problems at a Hazard cardiology firm it acquired in 2013. jstamper@herald-leader.com

The University of Kentucky has filed a lawsuit against the Lexington Herald-Leader in Fayette Circuit Court in order to avoid revealing documents about a failed business deal between UK HealthCare and a Hazard cardiology firm.

The case stems from a request by the Herald-Leader for a Power Point presentation given to the UK Board of Trustees by Washington, D.C. lawyer David Douglass about the Appalachian Heart Center. UK paid $1 million to Douglass and $4 million to the federal government because of billing problems with the clinic.

The newspaper also requested the lawyer’s billing records, but UK blacked out everything except the totals before providing the documents. The paper also requested outside consultants’ reports on the clinic.

A related lawsuit is already in court over an open meetings violation by the UK Board of Trustees because minutes were not kept for the meeting in which Douglass briefed board members.

Attorney General Andy Beshear asked that UK provide the documents to his office in camera so officials could decide if they were exempt from disclosure under the Kentucky Open Records Act. UK refused, so the attorney general’s office ruled that the university had violated the open records law.

UK’s lawsuit seeks to overturn the ruling by the attorney general’s office, arguing that the documents were preliminary in nature and shielded by attorney-client privilege.

“Transparency is an important value and legal obligation that we honor at the University of Kentucky,” said spokesman Jay Blanton. “But state and federal laws have made clear that transparency doesn’t trump the right to speak privately with — and seek counsel from — an attorney before making a decision or deciding on a course that may include litigation. Everyone has that right in our country. So, too, should the university.”

UK is also suing the university’s independent student newspaper in a different open records case.

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

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