Court Reverses Ruling on Hospital Records Sought by Newspaper

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(AP) The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a lower court ruling giving a newspaper expanded access to financial compensation records for employees of Carolinas Healthcare System.

The Charlotte Observer, North Carolina’s largest daily, asked in 2002 for information about 17 current and former employees, including expense reimbursements to three of them. The paper cited the state’s Public Records Act and Public Hospital Personnel Act.

Carolinas Healthcare System responded that only salary information was public.

In 2004, the newspaper again sought the information and in May of last year sought a summary judgment, which it won three months later.

The paper argued that it offends common sense to “allow public institutions to avoid revealing how public officials are paid simply by shifting the form of pay from fixed salary to bonuses, lump-sum payments, or other forms of compensation,” according to court documents.

In reversing the opinion, the appellate court said the General Assembly intended to give more protection to personnel records of public hospital employees than for other government workers, in part because of its need to compete for employees with privately run hospitals.

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