Prosecutors: Tuomey’s separation agreements should be public - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Prosecutors: Tuomey’s separation agreements should be public

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United States prosecutors stand firm that Tuomey Healthcare System's request to keep separation agreements confidential with its former CEO and vice president has no merit in court.

Tuomey filed a motion for a protective order Jan. 15 requesting separation agreements between the hospital and former CEO Jay Cox and former Vice President Gregg Martin remain sealed in the court file. The hospital claims that releasing the documents to the public is a violation of contractual confidentiality, according to court documents.

Cox and Martin resigned from Tuomey in September, after the hospital was found guilty of violating the so-called Stark Law and the False Claims Act. The court ordered the hospital to pay $237 million in damages.

Prosecutors argue that if a seal is granted, then all motions pertaining to the documents will also be confidential. Prosecutors replied Feb. 3 that the court should deny the hospital's request because Tuomey has cited no "unusual circumstances" to keep the separation agreements permanently sealed.

"Tuomey says that the terms of the separation agreement ‘simply memorialized the benefits that the two executives were already contractually entitled to pursuant to their employment agreements' and that such benefits were ‘common for executive officers in the hospital industry,'" the government's response explained.

Because this agreement is common in the hospital industry, the government said it is not deemed an unusual circumstance and should not allow the documents to be sealed.

In addition, the government argues that 990 forms Tuomey files to the IRS are available online, which include salaries paid to the former top executives. Eventually, the severance payments for Cox and Martin will show up in future 990s, prosecutors said.

"There is no reason to treat the amounts Tuomey has agreed to pay Cox and Martin under the separation agreements any differently than their already publicly-disclosed Tuomey salaries," the motion response stated.

The government also denies allegations by Tuomey that it previously agreed to keep the separation agreements sealed under a previous protection order.

Tuomey has until Feb. 13 to file a response to the government's argument to deny its request to seal the separation agreements. Meanwhile, the documents will be treated as confidential until a court ruling is issued.

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