Peduto Says Amazon Competition A ‘Poker Game’ And City Shouldn’t Have To Reveal Its Cards

Jul 11, 2018

It’s now up to Common Pleas Senior Judge Terrence O’Brien whether to order the city and Allegheny County to release details of their bid to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, or HQ2, to Pittsburgh. 

On Jan. 24, the state Office of Open Records ordered the city and county to release the region’s application to Amazon, ruling that the document belongs in the public domain. But the city and county balked and appealed that order to the Court of Common Pleas.

Judge O’Brien told both sides to file briefs following a hearing last week.  The county’s first assistant solicitor George Janocsko argued in court that the application includes “trade secrets” that are exempt from Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law.

Amazon named Pittsburgh as one of 20 finalist cities for its second North American headquarters.

“It's a big poker game and there's 20 people sitting around a table. Everyone's holding their cards very close to the vest. Nobody has revealed what they're holding,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. “We would be the only person sitting there turning their cards face up in this competition. And that would put it at a disadvantage.”

Peduto admitted that some competitors including Philadelphia and Baltimore have released their bids, but he claimed that information is not “proprietary.”

“That information is not to the level of detail nor to the direct matter at hand that would tip another city off as to what they are willing to do as a partner with Amazon,” Peduto said. 

According to Peduto, the information that the city and county might be forced to release is proprietary.

“This is not an open process we’re participating in, it’s a competitive process," he said. 

The mayor said that once the competition has ended, the city will release the details of its application.

“[Once] Amazon has decided what city they are choosing the information could be made available within days,” Peduto said.

Peduto said if Judge O’Brien rules against the city and county, officials will meet with attorneys to consider whether to appeal.