Kelsey Louie at a November 20 event held at GMHC. | DONNA ACETO
While a client group at Gay Men’s Health Crisis raised concerns earlier this year that the AIDS agency’s then-incoming chief executive officer may have breached the confidentiality of client records when he enrolled some people with AIDS in a running club in 2012, open records requests Gay City News made to New York State’s health department and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that no complaints alleging this have been filed with either health agency.
“I’m not surprised, it didn’t happen back then,” said Kelsey Louie, who became GMHC’s chief executive officer in June. “What we said then is there was nothing to find and there’s nothing to find now.”
In May, the website DNAinfo.com published a story that charged that in 2012 Louie tried to rig a board election at Front Runners New York by enrolling new members in the running club using the street address of ASCNYC, a Lower East Side AIDS group. Presumably, those new members voted for Louie for board president. The reason for Louie’s action, the website alleged, was to maintain a relationship between the club and Harlem United, where he then served as chief operating officer, that had raised thousands of dollars for the AIDS organization.
Despite charge GMHC chief fraudulently registered PWAs to steer funds to ex-employer, no one claims privacy breach
David Lin, the current Front Runners board president and at that time a candidate for that position, lost that election and sued the club’s treasurer, not Louie, claiming he had been denied a fair election by what he said were fraudulent memberships. That lawsuit, which allowed Lin to subpoena Verizon for the account holder of the IP address used to register the 46 new members, was later voluntarily withdrawn by Lin.
Louie has not publicly denied that he registered new club members in the run-up to the election. It is unclear if the registrations violated the club’s rules at that time. Reportedly, Front Runners has since changed its rules to prevent such actions.
It is also unknown if the new 2012 members were registered without their permission, as Lin’s complaint alleged. Some clients at ASCNYC had been enrolled in Front Runners earlier in 2012.
Louie is no longer a Front Runners member.
Responding to the DNA story, GMHC’s Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) wrote to Roberta Kaplan, the agency’s board co-chair, expressing concern that Louie, who was then preparing to assume the top post at GMHC, may have breached the confidentiality of client records in 2012 by enrolling them in Front Runners.
“It appears there may have been significant breaches in ‘client confidentiality’ by the Board of Directors’ (BOD) potential CEO selection, Kelsey Louie, during his tenure at Harlem United,” the CAB members wrote in the May letter to Kaplan. “At minimum, if true, Mr. Louie’s actions would appear to be a clear violation of federal laws.”
If confidentiality breaches took place during the Front Runners board election, no one complained about them at the time or since.
Responding to a Freedom of Information request from Gay City News, the state health department reported having no complaints of confidentiality breaches that named GMHC, Louie, Harlem United, or ASCNYC.
HHS has no complaints that name either Louie or ASCNYC. The one complaint alleging that client confidentiality was breached at GMHC dates back to 2005. The federal health agency has a single complaint that charges confidentiality was breached at Harlem United — in 2013, when some client records were found in a dumpster.
The HHS records were described to Gay City News, but copies of any documents responsive to the Freedom of Information request have not yet been released.
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) guards the confidentiality of medical records and allows anyone who knows of a breach of those records to complain to the agency. Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the breach, though HHS can extend that time.
Manny Rivera, who chairs GMHC’s CAB, said the client group now has an “extremely productive relationship” with Louie and that he was an “outstanding leader.” Rivera was pleased to learn that there were no complaints.
“I am glad that there is no ongoing investigation or no ongoing charge against Kelsey Louis,” Rivera said. “Our current relationship with Kelsey Louis… it’s an excellent relationship.”
GMHC is clearly sensitive about the topic. Gay City News spoke to Rivera on the afternoon of November 20, then spoke to Louie at an event held at the agency’s West 33rd Street offices that evening. Agency staff were dismayed that Gay City News had not cleared questions with GMHC’s press office and said the absence of complaints was not a story. Just after midnight on November 21, Rivera sent an email saying that an article on the topic might be ill-advised. The morning of November 21, GMHC’s PR firm, BerlinRosen Public Affairs, contacted Gay City News to discuss the story.