Soon to be former landmark in Peraica's districtThe former chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica is suing his former boss and a local hospital, alleging he was wrongfully fired after his hospital records were unlawfully accessed.
Terrence G. Austin, 42, of Bridgeview, was Peraica's chief of staff when found comatose in his home and taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center on July 7, 2005.
Police found a hypodermic needle in Austin's home and charged him with possession of drug paraphernalia July 9, 2005. Two days later, Peraica placed Austin on an unpaid leave of absence from his $78,345-a-year job.
A month later, Peraica fired Austin. Austin had worked for the county since 1991.
At the time, Peraica was running for county board president.
"I think that as far as I was concerned, the damage was pretty well done" to the reputation of his office, Peraica said.
Austin claims his firing was based on the illegal release of his confidential hospital records. He produced a letter from the hospital showing an employee named Katie Higgins accessed his records on July 8, 2005, for unknown reasons other than "treatment, payment, and operations," which are permitted.
Attempts to contact Higgins were unsuccessful.
Austin's lawsuit accuses Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation of violating his privacy under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
A spokesman for Advocate declined to comment.
Austin, who has been unemployed since his termination, is seeking damages from both parties and a comparable replacement job
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