Grady CEO Faces Open Records Warrant Hearing Monday

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(APN] ATLANTA — Pete Correll, the CEO of Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation, the privatized form of Grady Hospital, will face a warrant hearing Monday, November 29, 2010, before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance C. Russell, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

Jack Jersawitz, 76, an activist for workers’ rights, open records, and open meetings, had filed a warrant application in 2008 against Correll for failing to provide contact information for the Board Members of the privatized Grady Board, including home addresses, phone numbers, and emails.

Jersawitz said he wanted to be able to communicate with members of the Board outside of Board meetings, where there is little chance to interact with them.

However, Grady denied the request, citing an exemption in the law that does not appear to apply in the slightest way to Grady Hospital, according to Jersawitz.  The exemption, 11a, under OCGA 50-18-72, applies to the disclosure of private contact information for teachers and other school officials.

Then, Grady officials attempted to respond to the request by providing Jersawitz with a single email address which they said was the “Board email address” which could be used to reach any one Board Member or the entire Board.

“It requires that I converse to Board Members through a filter.  I don’t even have a guarantee that they’ll ever see what I say.  I can’t talk to them confidentially.  They can’t talk to me confidentially.  It’s an intrusion on communication between a citizen and the Members of the Board,” Jersawitz said.

“I want the usual means of communication that these Board Members use to communicate with anybody and everybody,” Jersawitz said.

Last Monday, November 22, 2010, Judge Russell held a hearing on a Motion for Declaratory Judgement that had been filed by Joshua Becker, attorney for private firm Alston & Bird LLP representing Correll and Grady.

The Motion for Declaratory Judgment had been filed in 2008, according to the online case record, but languished for two years.  Despite the fact that Jersawitz had filed an application for a criminal warrant against Correll–a criminal case which was already before Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks–Correll’s attorneys sought to sidestep that process by asking Judge Russell to issue an advisory ruling that it was acceptable to refuse to provide such contact information.

Jersawitz then made a Motion to Recuse Judge Hicks because he said Hicks had a history of not issuing warrants for public officials, even when they admit to being guilty.  Hicks immediately recused himself, Jersawitz said.

On October 14, 2008, Superior Court Judge Karen Woodson, who replaced Hicks, ruled to allow the warrant hearing to be postponed, pending the outcome of the declaratory judgment motion.

Last Monday, Judge Russell, however, denied Correll and Grady’s Motion for Declaratory Judgment.

According to a brief obtained by APN, Jersawitz had accused Correll of judge shopping.  “In the matter underlying the Plaintiff’s motion for declaratory judgment such advice is meaningless insofar as he has prior acted in a manner contrary to law and a citizen of Fulton County, Jack Jersawitz, has taken such action as provided in the Open Records Act for violations of the Act, i.e., made application at the Fulton County Warrant Office for an arrest warrant for Plaintiff herein Pete Correll.”

Correll could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined under the Act.

Jersawitz said his case against Correll began as part of an effort to hold the private Board accountable.

“This started back when they first handed control to the new corporation of the hospital,” Jersawitz said.  “We [activists including the Grady Coalition] had said we were going to monitor.”

“You go to the Board Meetings, you get two minutes to talk to these guys, who have no way to have a conversation.  It becomes obvious you need some way to have communication with these people,” Jersawitz said regarding the Members of the private Board.

“I wanted email addresses, home phone number, and addresses.  Their attorneys kept saying they were exempt using an exemption that applies to schools.  I kept correcting him, this is not a school,” Jersawitz said.

“I warned them- I got up at the Board Meeting three or four different times and several months and was ignored.  I applied for a warrant,” he said.

The hearing on the warrant application will be at 10am Monday in Room 5-B of the Fulton County Superior Courthouse.

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