Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Nondisclosure Gang the Amazon Bid Keeps Bringing on the Secrecy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Nondisclosure Gang the Amazon Bid Keeps Bringing on the Secrecy

Article excerpt

While fighting in court to keep their Amazon bid a secret, local government and civic leaders have taken a second alarming step to shield their courtship of the online retailer from public view. They've signed a nondisclosure agreement with each other.

Officials have said that the incentives offered to Amazon will be publicly released, whether Amazon chooses to locate its second headquarters here or not.

Then why the nondisclosure agreement among Pittsburgh, its Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the state Department of Community and Economic Development and Philadelphia, also a finalist for Amazon's HQ2? The agreement would remain in place for up to five years after Amazon gets its incentives here or decides to put its HQ2 somewhere else.

Are local officials playing a game of semantics? When they said they'd reveal the bid details even if Amazon failed to choose Pittsburgh, they didn't say how long afterward. Did they mean five years later?

DCED spokesman Michael Gerber said the agreement wouldn't prohibit any party from releasing information it brought to the process. But it would prohibit one party from releasing information another brought forward. That makes no sense; we're talking about one bid, not pieces of a puzzle for which one entity or another is exclusively responsible.

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and the state have defied orders from the state's independent Office of Open Records to turn over the bid, which it ruled a public document. The nondisclosure agreement came to light only because of a court filing the state made as it continues fighting to keep the bid under wraps. Pittsburgh and the county also have gone to Common Pleas Court to try to keep the bid from the Post-Gazette and other news organizations.

In their earnestness to shut the public out, government officials act like they're making plans for war, not wooing a high-profile company with taxpayer money. They didn't even want Common Pleas Senior Judge W. …

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