University of Kentucky sues reporter at pubradio station it owns

By Ben Mook

In a dispute over an open records request, the University of Kentucky filed a lawsuit against Brenna Angel, a reporter for its own public radio station, WUKY-FM.

Angel has been covering problems in the pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, which is operated by the university.

The university filed the lawsuit in Fayette County Circuit Court against Angel last week. Angel had requested records related to pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at a university-owned hospital. WUKY is not named in the lawsuit.

The school took the legal route after the Kentucky Attorney General’s office issued a ruling that supported Angel’s request for the records. University of Kentucky officials have argued that turning over the records in question would violate federal healthcare privacy laws.

The lawsuit does not seek damages from Angel. Instead, it is asking the court to take a fresh look at the issue and rule that the attorney general’s opinion was incorrect and that the school was correct to reject the information request.

The pediatric cardiothoracic program has been suspended, pending an internal review, according to local media reports.

Since the lawsuit was filed several organizations have come out in support of Angel. The Society of Professional Journalists and Public Radio News Directors Inc. has called on the university to drop the lawsuit. And in an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader Wednesday, the newspaper called the lawsuit a “sad day for both open inquiry and freedom of information.”

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