February 5, 2013

Maine AG wants hospitals to allow public into meetings

The boards of those that rely mostly on taxpayer funding should be more open to scrutiny, the attorney general says.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

State Attorney General Janet Mills

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

"We don't know of any reason why hospitals shouldn't be afforded the same status as other private businesses," he said. "I'm not aware of any other private businesses that have their meetings open by state law. Certainly people are interested in hospitals, but they're also interested in other businesses as well. I'm not sure why we're being singled out."

Mills said she hoped to work with the hospital association to craft the bill. She said the state's open-records law has increased accountability to the public, which helps pay the bills.

"It would behoove these communities, private agencies and the hospitals themselves to open the door just a crack and allow public access to the board meetings," Mills said. "Frankly, the Freedom of Access Act has been on the books for more than 50 years now. County governments, municipal governments and government entities with much smaller budgets have contended with the ins and outs of public meeting laws for many years, for decades."

According to data compiled by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, many state "sunshine laws" exempt hospitals, but others, such as Florida and West Virginia, force some hospitals receiving public funding to hold open meetings.

Connecticut's sunshine law has a provision that includes private organizations that receive a certain portion of public funding. Other New England states are silent on the issue.

Mills has not begun courting lawmakers to sponsor her bill. She must do so by the end of the month.

 

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

twitter/stevemistler

 

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