Many years ago when I was a reporter for an Amarillo TV station, I tried to challenge what I saw as a very disturbing trend in the Texas hospital industry. Starting in Amarillo, a very astute senior administrator who yearned to do the business of a publicly funded hospital out of sight of the media and the people paying his bills, found a way to do so. He created a hospital foundation that ran the daily business of the facility and leased the building from the public.
Thus, he had the best of both worlds. He could hide from public view in a public building and perform a publicly funded service.
I thought that was wrong. But, my bosses didn't, so we didn't take it to court, which would have been an expensive remedy.
After the administrator did this successfully in Amarillo, he moved on to Wichita Falls and other cities, converting public hospitals to private ones using publicly funded facilities.
The worm, as they say, may be changing.
Jonathan Peters reports in a recent edition of the Columbia Journalism Review online that two state high courts in Indiana and Ohio have ruled that private entities that perform public functions are subject to state open records laws.
That's a victory for all of us who want our government agencies to be held accountable.
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