When Santa Clara City Council Member Patricia Mahan woke up from a medical procedure on Thursday, it was to a call from a Mercury News reporter saying there was a press release that she was resigning.
Earlier in the afternoon, the City of Santa Clara publicly announced via a City press release and social media that Council Member Mahan had resigned from the Council, giving a date for Mahan’s departure and citing “serious medical issues.”
The City did so without Mahan’s authorization or even knowledge. At the time the announcement was released, Mahan was in the hospital recovering from a medical procedure.
“Nobody called me,” Mahan said. “I woke up with a call from a Mercury News reporter.”
Mahan says that she had only spoken privately with HR staff about her plans, but hadn’t told the Mayor about her plans.
“I didn’t include a retirement date in that discussion,” Mahan said. “I told nobody outside my family. If I wanted to tell people [about my plans] I would tell them from the dais.”
Further, publishing confidential medical information was not only “wrong,” Mahan said, “I think this is actionable. Communicating confidential medical information is protected under HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act].”
By publishing Mahan’s medical information, Mahan explained, the City made it a public record and all confidential communications respecting Mahan’s medical information — which are normally protected and not subject the Public Records Act — become public records as well.
The City’s carelessness may have set Mahan’s recovery back, and as of this writing she is still in the hospital and being carefully monitored.
Mahan says she asked City Manager Deanna Santana to publish another news release — a correction and apology. “She said she’d have to talk to [City Attorney Brian Doyle].”
Mahan is, in fact, cancer-free.