Judge on DCS records redactions: Someone may need to go to jail

1:49 PM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
Chancellor Carol McCoy said ' My patience has been worn thin', with the way the Department of Children Services has acted in handling children's records. She asked for the name of a high ranking DCS official to hold in contempt if DCS doesn't comply with her order on lWednesday June 26, 2013, in Nashville in Tenn. / John Partipilo / The Tennessean
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Written by Bobby Allyn, The Tennessean

Chancellor Carol McCoy said on Wednesday morning that her "confidence was shaken" after the Department of Children Services removed information on children who died or nearly died under the agency's supervision that went beyond her order.

McCoy asked specifically for the person responsible for misinterpreting her court order, saying she does not consider contempt of court actions lightly.

"You find this court a commissioner or assistant commissioner, someone big enough to tell me they are the ones who didn't follow the order," McCoy said. "I need the name of the person responsible ... someone who needs to sit in the pokey."

If DCS fails to follow the court's order, McCoy said she will not hesitate to hold DCS officials in contempt of court.

McCoy ordered that the state agency go back and restore information it removed that she did not specifically order to be redacted in dozens of files that have already been released to The Tennessean and other media organizations, including the additional 50 files DCS released today.

Earlier this month, DCS handed over 44 records that contained redactions that extended beyond what McCoy had deemed necessary, including the names of children and other individuals, specific location information and institutions.

Janet Kleinfelter, attorney for DCS, argued at the time that the additional black-outs were necessary under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and other government-mandated protections of privacy.

In court on Wednesday, Doug Dimond, DCS' chief legal counsel, said "we're not trying to play hide the ball here," citing the extreme sensitivity of the records.

The first 50 documents the state turned over followed McCoy's order in blacking out limited information about the children. The next batch, however, contained extensive black outs.

"I was somewhat surprised at the second 50 redactions," McCoy said. "I thought my order was pretty clear."

The Tennessean and a dozen other news organizations filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the state Department of Children's Services violated state law by refusing to disclose the records of children who died under the agency's supervision.

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