Katie Kinne

Prouty Garden advocates sue state over public record request

Katie Kinne
Prouty Garden advocates sue state over public record request

By Jessica Bartlett

A group that's fighting the demolition of a beloved garden at Boston Children’s Hospital is suing the state, saying there may be a connection between the state's approval of the demolition last October and the hospital's participation in a new pilot program around the same time.

The lawsuit by the Friends of Prouty Garden in Suffolk Superior Court against Marylou Sudders, the secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, alleges the state refused to give petitioners documents it requested under the state’s Public Records Law.

It's the latest move in a longstanding dispute over the Prouty Garden, a half-acre plot of land at Boston Children’s Hospital that has already been demolished to make way for a $1 billion new clinical building.

According to Gregor McGregor, an attorney for the plaintiff who has also been a spokesperson for the group opposing Boston Children’s Hospital expansion, the group is seeking several documents related to the state’s communications around the Boston Children’s Hospital state approval — also called a Determination of Need, and communications relating to the state’s desire to have Boston Children’s Hospital join a pilot program for MassHealth to care for patients on a budget.

McGregor said the governor approved Children’s project at roughly the same time the hospital said it would participate in the pilot program. He reasons that there may be a connection.

“I’m not drawing inferences. I’m connecting the dots,” McGregor said. “That’s what this suit is about.”

The suit references meetings Gov. Charlie Baker had with Children’s CEO Sandra Fenwick, and also discussions he had with Sudders about that meeting.

Endowed in 1956 by a family, the garden had served as a healing space for children and their families. Advocates also say the ashes of at least two children who died in the hospital had been spread in the garden.

Despite opposition, and an ongoing court case against the project, the state’s Department of Public Health approved the expansion in October 2016. Demolition of the garden began in December.

Opponents appealed but still lost injunctions to stop demolition. McGregor said he’s still hopeful that the garden could be restored, or at the very least that the decision to approve the project would be rescinded.

“(My clients) want the integrity of (state’s approval process) upheld,” McGregor said. “They want the agency to review under its jurisdiction the project with no exceptions, and… this is designed to daylight how this went down. We’ll see what the facts lead to.”