Tuomey hospital wants leaders` separation agreements to be confidential

Published: Jan. 21, 2014 at 8:12 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2014 at 7:14 PM EST
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SUMTER, SC (WIS) - Tuomey Healthcare System is fighting to ensure that separation agreements for its former CEO and vice president are kept confidential in federal court files.

Tuomey filed a motion for another protective order Jan. 16 stating that the hospital entered into contractual agreements with former CEO Jay Cox and former Vice President Gregg Martin in 2008. The hospital claims that releasing the documents to the public is a violation of confidentiality, according to court documents.

"Tuomey informed the government it would voluntarily produce the separation agreements as long as it had the permission of Cox and Martin and on the express understanding between all parties that the documents were to be treated as confidential under the protective order," court documents explained.

Tuomey received a previous protective order in this case to secure the hospital's financial information. The hospital understood that protective order to include the former leaders' separation agreements, but federal attorneys disagree.

Federal prosecutor Tracy Hilmer said in an email to Tuomey attorneys that the government "did not agree that the separation materials should be treated as confidential." Instead, Hilmer explained that Tuomey was free to label the documents as such, but the government has the right to challenge the hospital's request.

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. After Tuomey officials said it could be forced to close if it paid that total, federal officials are asking for $70 million deposit while the appeal process continues.

"The government's argument is erroneous and should be seen for what it is – an attempt to further paint Tuomey in a negative light within the Sumter community," according to court documents.

WIS attempted to obtain the separation agreements in September; however, the hospital spokeswoman said it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act because it is a private business.

The federal government will treat the separation agreements as confidential until a court ruling is issued.

Tuomey also filed for a two-day extension to submit a reply in support of a motion to stop court proceedings pending an appeal in the case. A response is expected this week.

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