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A Hinds County judge ruled in favor of The Pine Belt NEWS Tuesday and has ordered the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) to release the names of Forrest County long-term care facilities where 26 patients have died from COVID-19 complications.
The lawsuit was filed May 12 by Hattiesburg attorney Matthew Lawrence after the weekly newspaper made numerous attempts to obtain the information through traditional means – including the filing of a formal complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission.
David Gustafson, publisher of The PineBelt NEWS, said he chose to pursue relief through the courts when officials from the ethics commission told him it would likely be several months before they could take up the case.
“Needless to say, we are extremely pleased that the Court ruled in our favor,” said Gustafson. “Unfortunately, we live in a day and age when secrecy in government generates suspicion and mistrust on the part of our citizenry and I’m proud to lead a news organization that isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions and seek the answers that our readers deserve.”
In her ruling, Chancellor Tiffany Grove concluded that MSDH officials failed to abide by the requirements as set forth by the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.
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