UK and its foundation sue former student in open-records appeal

Lachin Hatemi, a UK medical school graduate, has filed numerous open records request for information about UK and the Kentucky Medical Services Foundation.
Lachin Hatemi, a UK medical school graduate, has filed numerous open records request for information about UK and the Kentucky Medical Services Foundation.

The University of Kentucky and an affiliated foundation are suing a former UK medical student who has sought information about UK’s medical enterprise under Kentucky’s open-records law.

The lawsuits against Lachin Hatemi in Fayette Circuit Court are part of the legal process to appeal several of Attorney General Andy Beshear’s decisions in favor of Hatemi. Opinions issued by the attorney general on open-records issues carry the weight of law unless appealed in circuit court.

In particular, Beshear’s office ruled last fall that Kentucky Medical Services Foundation — which bills for and pays all UK doctors — is a public agency because it is run by UK faculty. The foundation contends in multiple lawsuits that it is a private entity that doesn’t have to allow the public to inspect its records.

Hatemi’s requests included the names of students who received college scholarships from the foundation, numerous financial records and the foundation’s financial relationships with private businesses. The attorney general has ruled that the foundation should turn over some of those documents but that others could be properly withheld under exemptions in the Open Records Act.

In another lawsuit, The University of Kentucky is appealing an attorney general opinion that found that UK had violated the open-records law when it didn’t produce minutes of meetings by the UK HealthCare Compensation Planning Committee. The opinion found that because the committee is made up of faculty and department chairs, it was a public entity, and records of the meetings should exist.

UK has argued that because the committee provides advice, not policy, it’s not a public entity.

The foundation’s lawyers characterized Hatemi’s requests as “an attempt to disrupt KMSF operations and harass and intimidate KMSF employees and officers for whom he has previously expressed contempt,” the documents say. However, neither the foundation nor UK asked for any specific action against Hatemi.

In a March 2016 opinion against the foundation, the attorney general’s office said the foundation’s lawyers had not presented “clear and convincing evidence” that Hatemi’s requests were unreasonable, or that they were made for “purposes of harassment.”

The foundation has made headlines in the past year because of its links to a controversial UK surgeon who lost his privileges to work in UK hospitals in August. Paul Kearney alleged that UK administrators decided to pursue the revocation only after he started asking questions about how the foundation was spending money.

Hatemi is one of Kearney’s former students.

“This is the price we pay for asking for a more transparent university,” Hatemi said Tuesday.

UK President Eli Capilouto and UK’s board of trustees are “directly responsible for questionable dealings of UK’s secretive foundation,” he said.

Hatemi said that by allowing UK to use its resources to wage a legal war against transparency, “the UK board of trustees is violating its fiduciary duties.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford