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Updated: Florida Channel agreed to mute name of inmate from Senate testimony

The Florida ChannelThe state-run public television channel agreed to remove the name of an inmate from the audio file of a Senate hearing in which a Department of Corrections whistle-blower alleged that potential criminal activity was ignored or cover-up at the agency, the executive director of The Florida Channel told the Herald/Times.

Doug Glisson, an inspector with the Department of Correction’s Office of Inspector General, testified under oath at the March 10 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the agency covered up potentially negligent medical care, criminal activity and sabotaged investigations to protect high ranking officials within the organization.

Among the examples Glisson cited was the case of inmate Quintin Foust, whose death was listed as “suspicious” by the medical examiner. Glisson said Foust was “undergoing medical care” at Jefferson Correctional Institution but did not provide any details about his medical condition or ailments. He said Foust “started having seizures” and “wound up dying.”  

Beth Switzer, executive director of The Florida Channel, said that "approximately two weeks after the meeting was held and subsequently archived on our site" she received a call from DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis "telling me that an 'inadvertent HIPAA violation' had occurred in the 3/10/15 meeting and asked if there was anything we could do to keep the person’s name from being repeated over and over again in violation of HIPAA."

The federal HIPAA privacy rule protects individuals from disclosure of identifiable health information.

Switzer replied to Lewis that "we could mute the name in the video file that remains in the video library" and they subsequently muted four references to Foust's name.

"We made no effort to conceal that fact,'' Switzer said in a statement. "While extremely rare, this kind of request has occurred in the past (only a handful of times in nearly 18 years) -- in order to withhold the identity of under-age or under-cover individuals offering testimony, or to remove profanity."

Switzer said that WFSU-TV and The Florida Channel "is solely responsible for all audio/video on our website and we retain all editorial control" and the files are not considered "official” record.

She said that she did not consult an attorney to confirm whether the reference was a violation of the federal rule.

"I trusted McKinley’s assessment of the situation and as mentioned, we kept the original intact, should there be any issue,'' she said. 

Switzer emphasized that "in the thousands and thousands of hours of archived video on our site, there is under a minute of 'muted' audio.  And, in the very rare circumstance that we do make an edit, we make no effort to conceal that fact (in fact, we want it to be obvious) and we make every effort to retain the originals."

Here is the transcript of Glisson's testimony at the Senate meeting.