In the column, Gregory J. Kernion, chairman Regional Medical Center’s board of directors, suggests The Star was preparing to sue RMC in order to obtain a document under the state’s Open Records Act.
Leaving aside Mr. Kernian’s tone of animosity, we feel no enmity toward him or the hospital. We simply sought to inform the public about the actions of a large and valuable public institution. We do, however, quarrel with the sequence of events in Mr. Kernian’s letter, starting with the point that we have said publicly and to our attorneys that we did not intend to sue the hospital to obtain information about its purchase of the Jacksonville hospital.
We retained counsel to make the same argument that we had been making to RMC’s board and executive staff: State law and recent state Supreme Court precedent declare a public hospital’s financial transactions such as the sale or purchase of property to be information the public is entitled to. Given the clear evidence at hand, it was and is our opinion that going to court was a waste of time and money. To us it was an extreme last resort.
We remained confident we could persuade RMC’s board of the rightness of our case outside of the courts, which is why it was a surprise that RMC’s board took the extraordinary step of suing this newspaper in late February. As to that embarrassing misstep on the RMC board’s part, we stand by our Feb. 28 editorial: “Committing journalism is not a crime. Nor should it be subject to a civil lawsuit.”