According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Allen Superior Court against the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, the Indiana Journal Gazette was denied the name of a child-care center where the E. coli outbreak occurred despite a formal access request, the Gazette reports.
The lawsuit alleges the department has violated The Journal Gazette’s statutory rights by denying access to government records to which the public is to have open access. They are seeking unaltered copies of the documents concerning the E. coli outbreak, attorney’s fees, court costs and other expenses incurred as a result of the lawsuit.
The department maintains that it made the correct decision and will continue defending its position as the case travels through the legal system. Mindy Waldron, Health Department spokeswoman, said that by revealing the identity of the child-care center, it would have revealed the people who were exposed to the disease.
Protecting the identities of people who have a communicable disease is essential to public health investigations, Waldron said. If the department couldn’t promise confidentiality to those afflicted, many people might not be cooperative during the investigation, which aims to discover the cause and prevent such a situation from happening again.
Journal Gazette Editor Craig Klugman argued that “If a child-care center has an outbreak of a dangerous disease, the public needs to know where it’s happening.”