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News-Press: Fired WINK anchor's suit vs. station amended

Susan Chana Lask with News Anchor Matt Dougherty

Susan Chana Lask with client News Anchor Matt Dougherty in First Amendment Case

MICHAEL BRAUN, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 3:38 p.m. EDT September 22, 2015

A breach-of-contract lawsuit by a former local television news anchor against the station that fired him has been amended.

The original suit, filed Aug. 13, alleges that WINK News fired anchor Matthew Dougherty, 33, on July 27 because he would not destroy notes, video, photos and other information related to a story involving about 100 boxes of patient medical records,  including credit card receipts, shot records, Social Security numbers and other detailed patient information found in an auctioned-off storage unit.

Dougherty, who was one year into a three-year contract with WINK, said he had originally been directed by the station to cover the storage unit auction and the discovery of the records.
However, the suit alleges that once WINK news director Russ Kilgore saw that the story involved Dr. Gerardo A. Gamez, his family physician, he directed Dougherty and his producers to “kill the story.”

In the amended filing the suit adds Kilgore and Joe Schwartzel, WINK's general manager, Dr. Gamez and Maria Gamez, believed to be the doctor's wife, Lee Memorial Hospital and Lee Memorial Health System as defendants.

Schwartzel declined to comment, saying it was an employee matter. A spokesman for Lee Memorial also declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Attorney Kristen Perkins, representing Gamez, previously issued a statement from the doctor that said he did not abandon any patient records, that they were stored at an off-site location, not unusual when a physician closes an office and joins another group practice, which Gamez did.

The statement added that Gamez took immediate action to secure the records once he was made aware of the problem and didn’t believe there was any improper use or dissemination of confidential patient information.

Susan Chana Lask, the lawyer representing Dougherty, said the amended suit alleges the parties involved colluded to ruin Dougherty's career.

Tags: news anchor, hipaa, employment law