Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Oppose Order To Make Amazon Bid Public

Feb 23, 2018

The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are appealing a decision from Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records, which on Jan. 24 ordered them to release their proposal to become Amazon’s second headquarters, or HQ2. 

The city and county were named as respondents in the Right to Know requests, but Mayor Bill Peduto said the limited liability corporation, PGHQ2, will be the entity to respond. The governments had 30 days to appeal or comply with the state's order. 

Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald said earlier this week that the region doesn’t have anything to hide, but they don’t want to lose their edge.

“Nothing that we’re putting in there are we ashamed of, we think it’s a good proposal that we’re putting forward,” he said. “But if we put ours out there while the other 19 [municipalities on Amazon’s short list] could then take a look at ours, it would make Pittsburgh less competitive.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the filing of the appeals on Friday afternoon.

The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas will now decide whether or not the document should be in the public domain. How quickly that happens depends on the judge. Office of Open Records Executive Director Erik Arneson said the Right To Know law contains very specific deadlines, but that ends once a case gets to the courts.

“Now, that said, our experience has been that particularly in cases of significant public interest — and I think this certainly meets that standard — when there are appeals, the courts have traditionally moved very quickly on them,” he said.

Fitzgerald said the agencies would follow the court’s ruling, “but the goal is to try to win the competitive advantage.”

Initial requests to the city and county to release the document were denied. In their argument to the state, the city and county claimed a number of exceptions under the Right To Know law, including the protection of trade secrets. Arneson said the exceptions did not apply in this case.

“These were proposals not being submitted to government agencies, but proposals prepared by government agencies and submitted to a private company,” he said. “By and large those exceptions were designed to address situations where companies provide information to government agencies where that information is a trade secret. The particular formula of some kind of new high tech road surface or things along those lines.”

The successful Right To Know requests were filed by WTAE-TV reporter Paul Van Osdol. The city was ordered to release its proposal and related documents, while the county was ordered to release just the proposal