U of L physicians’ group drops open-records appeal, but C-J may still not get records

An organization representing University of Louisville doctors who were trying to keep their financial records private dropped its lawsuit appealing an adverse open-records decision Tuesday. In April, Attorney General Jack Conway ruled that University of Louisville Physicians Inc. is a public agency and, as such, is subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act. Conway’s opinion was requested by The Courier-Journal.

Last November, state auditor Crit Luallen released a scathing audit against Passport, which provides managed care for 165,000 Medicaid patients in Jefferson and 15 surrounding counties. The audit accused the organization of “wasteful spending, conflicts of interest and the questionable transfer of $30 million in Medicaid funds to organizations represented on Passport’s board, including University Physician Associates,” The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus reports. Because of the audit, the newspaper asked for financial records from University Physicians Associates and University of Louisville Physicians Inc., which is the successor to University Physicians Associates. They refused to hand over the records, and Conway’s decision followed.

Though the attorney general determined the organization should be subject to the open-records law, and the doctors’ lawsuit has been dismissed, giving Conway’s opinion the force of law, The Courier-Journal may not receive the records it has asked for. In its notice of dismissal, University of Louisville Physicians stated it could change “its structure and function in the future which it believes may alter its status as a public agency.”

“We are still forming our final structure and function,” Diane Patridge, ULP’s vice president for marketing and communications, told Loftus. “Once we’re up and fully established we may appeal this current determination.” Curiously, “Partridge also said that ULP has no records to release to the newspaper as a result of the dismissal of the case,” because it has no employees — even though it was incorporated in March 2010. “She said University Physicians Associates . . . has handled all financial matters and paperwork for ULP to date,” Loftus reports.

“This case is another piece of a puzzle,” Courier-Journal attorney Jon Fleischaker said. “It’s another step to try to make sure there’s more transparency at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and University Medical Center.” (Read more) “Sounds like a shell game with shell corporations,” said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and associate extension professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky.

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