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UPMC asks city of Pittsburgh for letter in dispute over tax exemption

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 12:23 a.m.

UPMC wants Pittsburgh to turn over unredacted copies of private correspondence that the health care giant believes contains legal opinions, facts and rumors justifying the city's decision to strip UPMC of its tax-exempt status.

UPMC and its attorneys filed a petition Thursday asking Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to overturn the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records decision last month to deny a similar appeal by UPMC asking the city to provide unredacted billing records from the law firm of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Geffsky, which the city retained to analyze and give an opinion about the possibility of stripping UPMC of a payroll tax exemption.

The petition states that the law firm provided the city with a 13-page confidential letter outlining “the legal opinions, ‘facts' and ‘rumor' purportedly justifying the city's decision to sue UPMC two weeks later” to remove the exemption.

UPMC believes the city “seeks to cloak from public disclosure — among other things, the identities of third party persons and entities who the city has now admitted it conferred with before deciding to sue UPMC. ...”

According to the petition, the city undermined its “bogus claim that such information is protected from disclosure by the attorney client privilege and/or work product doctrine” by making the confidential letter “the cornerstone” of the city's public relations campaign and lawsuit filed against UPMC.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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