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Friday, June 16, 2017

Lakewood Officials Begin Protracted Lakewood Hospital Public Records Response

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 10:56 AM

click to enlarge MAYOR MIKE SUMMERS, SECOND FROM LEFT, IN CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS.
  • Mayor Mike Summers, second from left, in City Council chambers.
The city of Lakewood began its response to a sprawling field of public records requests this week, though there's still a long road ahead, based on the court docket.

Lakewood was facing a June 12 summary judgment deadline and mounting pressure to release hundreds of thousands of public records requested since March 2016 by resident Brian Essi. (This, after an earlier May 1 compliance deadline came and went.) On June 14, the city released "the first 1,389 pages" of those records.

Unfortunately, many of the pages are essentially blank or duplicated email threads. (Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers acknowledges this when he writes, "Think of all the iterations of setting up a meeting or discussing a topic with multiple participants, the back-and-forth questions and answers about a meeting or a subject, and the volume of written communication, however brief and perhaps negligible..." Indeed.) Elsewhere, the records are near-complete drafts of press releases and PowerPoints already provided to the public. See the full 1,389-page attachment here.

The overall gist of this records release simply shows how closely Lakewood city officials worked with what was then known as Hennes Paynter Communications to curate and present the January 2015 news conference that announced the hospital's closure. It's at the very least an interesting look into how government messages are pruned by third parties. (Looking at the records, though, we personally take issue with the city leaving Scene off its media list at that time and including something called Lakewood Buzz. We overcame the oversight and produced this cover story on the circus act that was developing throughout 2015.)

Brian Essi v City of Lakewood will continue to marinate in court, and it's worth noting that the case has attracted a great deal of outside attention. During an April 25 hearing, a bevy of attorneys representing Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, the Lakewood Hospital Association, the Lakewood Hospital Foundation, Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation all showed up, despite laying no claim to this appeals case. According to a signed affidavit from Essi, at least one attorney said that non-party clients "are implicated" by these records. It's unclear what was meant by that.

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