Tail Wagging the Dog? Who's In Charge of Open Records Requests for the Somervell County Hospital Authority?Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas

First Open Records Request for the Authority

Tail Wagging the Dog? Who's In Charge of Open Records Requests for the Somervell County Hospital Authority?

23 December 2009 at 2:17:02 PM

I confess I'm a little puzzled. I missed the meeting yesterday morning in which, apparently , quite a lot of auditing and financial details were discussed with the public Somervell County Hospital Authority and the entity which is hired by them, the Glen Rose Healthcare Inc (501a). I wondered what had happened, so figured that, just like any other other open records request we normally do as a news source, we would ask the Somervell County Hospital Authority for a copy of the presentation that was made and handed out, not just to the still-functioning Foundation, but also to the appointed authority members, thus making this public by proxy.

I sent an open records request yesterday to the head of the Somervell County Hospital Authority.

I am requesting a copy of the presentation (I believe it was a powerpoint) that was presented at the meeting this morning (December 22 2009) and  passed out to the Somervell County Hospital board. If it is available in electronic/digital format, I would prefer that. In lieu of that, if the cost of the presentation is beyond $10, please let me know first.  I would also like a copy of the minutes when they go out.
Second question: Will the audit that was referenced this morning be available via a Public/Open Records Request?

I received this reply, in part...

I forwarded your request on to Gary Marks

I then asked, in part...

Secondly, once the hospital changes are made officially next month, who will be sending out the meeting notices and minutes, and who should be addressed for open records?

I received back a phone call from the head of the authority who said that the intent was, after January 1 2009 to have the Glen Rose Medical Center staff do the open records request, meeting minutes, etc.

I thought about this for awhile and decided this would be a good verification question from the Texas Attorney General, and called Head back to let him know I was planning to verify. My reasons are this. I believe that, even though the Glen Rose Medical Center, ie Glen Rose Healthcare Inc,  is now in basically an employee/contractor status with the county, the entity that needs to handle public records requests should be the Hospital Authority. Now, they may decide to delegate the actual information in the request to GRHI (or whatever the health care authority initials are now), but the Authority is the one to whom the public looks as the stewards of information, not Gary Marks as representatative of the contracted company running the hospital. Same thing with minutes-there is a Secretary appointed from the board, but apparently she is only in a position with title but no duties. Instead, the administrative assistant to Gary Marks would be the one doing the duty. Also, apparently the Foundation has been in the habit of doing audio recordings of all meetings, but it's not clear to me, although I have requested the audio from yesterday, whether yesterday's meeting was recorded-this problem is always solved if it is the responsibillity of the Hospital Authority to make sure that meetings are recorded and not relying on the contractors.

I may be mistaken in this; perhaps it is common practice for taxpaying citizens to have their judges appoint boards to oversee various functions but not have those board members be the focal point for public inquiry. The Texas Attorney General should be able to answer this definitively.

UPDATE Jan 10 2010- the AG's office told me that they don't generally handle inquires about who should do a request, that it's up to the entity to decide who can fulfill, but that the authority should be the ones in charge. I found this on the AG's website.

4. We recommend that all requests be addressed to the Officer for Public Information or the chief administrative officer of the governmental body. Requests made by facsimile or electronic mail must be addressed to the Officer for Public Information or the chief administrative officer in order to trigger an obligation under the Public Information Act.

Of the governmental body. Not the contractor.

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