Mayor Reverses City Attorney's Decision on Public Information Policy - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/23/03

Mayor Reverses City Attorney's Decision on Public Information Policy

City of Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal temporarily reversed a decision made last week to keep information about certain crime and accident victims secret from the public. City Attorney Anita Burgess ordered police to keep that information from the public because she feared releasing it would violate a new medical privacy law.

The new federal law gives patients at the hospital, doctor's office and pharmacy the option to keep their medical and health records completely anonymous if they wish. But City Attorney Anita Burgess interpreted the law to include crime victims and traffic accident victims. So, she instructed police officers to withhold all information about murders and traffic fatalities in Lubbock.

For the past six days, Lubbock Police operated under those strict orders. For example, police withheld information about a woman who rolled a mini-van earlier this week because that's what they were instructed to do.

But, no other cities interpreted the law this way. So on Wednesday, perhaps because of a grave misinterpretation, Mayor Marc McDougal temporarily reversed the city attorney's order. "What I've instructed her to do is to continue releasing information from the police department just like we have in the past, until council has the opportunity to review this policy," says Mayor McDougal.

He says city council will review the policy at its next public meeting on May 6th. Council will then make a final ruling after listening to both the city attorney's interpretation and the interpretation of attorneys with expertise in Freedom of Information.

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