A handful of Washington County staffers privately blasted Commissioners President Terry L. Baker for divulging information found in a former county employee’s personnel file, telling A Miner Detail this weekend that Baker likely violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a federal law that restricts the release of medical information.
The staffers who contacted A Miner Detail requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about internal county matters.
Baker, 62, staffers claim, relayed confidential personnel information about a former county staffer to some county government staffers that included intimate details about said employee’s medical records and their mental health treatment.
“We overheard Commissioner Baker disparaging a former county employee for seeking mental health treatment for emotional issues at an outpatient mental health clinic in Washington County,” staffers confirmed to A Miner Detail.
Mr. Baker reportedly laughed about the former employee for seeking mental health treatment and joked about said employee’s mental health condition, county staffers said.
Before county staffers came forward to A Miner Detail this past weekend, a source close to Baker told A Miner Detail in September that they overheard him speaking on his cellular phone about the same former county employee’s mental health treatment, corroborating the staffers’ account.
Washington County’s Human Resources Department has direct access and control over all county employee personnel files.
The Human Resources Department handles all employment activity relating to hiring and termination, employee grievances and performance, policies and procedures, employee benefits, workers compensation, county insurance, and general information, according to a description of the Department listed on the county’s website.
Elected county commissioners are not granted direct access to county employee personnel records. Commissioners may, however, request personnel records with the county’s Human Resources Department.
“Mr. Baker would not have direct access to an employee’s personnel file. The information he released was either relayed to him by someone who works in the county’s Human Resources Department or by the county administrator,” one county staffer told A Miner Detail.
A request for comment has gone unreturned from Baker and County Administrator Rob Slocum.
Baker is seeking re-election to a fourth four-year term in the November general election.
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