Friday, June 29, 2007

Harrison Square "coverup"

The below editorial was sent to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Controller, City Attorney, and all nince members of City Council on June 29th. It was emailed to the media on the same day.

Harrison Square “coverup”
Written on June 29th, 2007

I have been trying to get specific financial information concerning the Harrison Square project since February 15th. As of June 29th I am still trying to get this information from The City of Fort Wayne.

On February 15th Mayor Graham Richard personally promised me that all of my questions about the project would be answered and that I would be able to analyze the financial aspects of the project. He made this promise during a public meeting of the Northwest Area Partnership.

On March 1st I met with Fort Wayne City Controller Pat Roller. She was unable to answer my questions; however, she wrote down some of my questions and I gave her a typed list of 58 questions. She promised to get back to me with answers. I am still waiting for these answers.

On April 16th I realized that City Council was going to vote on the Harrison Square Project before the City had provided me the financial information underlying the project. With this in mind I filed seven “public information requests” concerning the Harrison Square Project.

I received a feeble response to my “public information requests” on May 19th. The response provided some basic summary information about the project and provided none of the detailed financial information I requested; in fact, The City is claiming that some of the detailed financial information I requested is a “trade secret” of Acquest Realty Advisors, Inc. The City also claimed that none of the following exist:
1. Revenue sharing agreements associated with the Harrison Square Project.
2. Any agreements involving the newly proposed Parking Garage.
3. The written reply to the 58 questions I submitted to the city.

I next filed a complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor. An investigation was performed and the Indiana Public Access Counselor found on June 14th that “The City of Fort Wayne bears the burden of proof to show that the information I am seeking is confidential as a trade secret or confidential financial information.”

It seems like the only way I am going to be able to review the financial aspects of the Harrison Square Project is to hire an attorney and take the City to court. After reviewing the Indiana Code, speaking with two attorneys, and speaking with The Indiana Public Access Counselor I am relatively certain that I will win the case and that the City of Fort Wayne (Read taxpayers) will have to cover my attorney’s fees. I really do not want to take my City to court; however, their unwillingness to provide public information is forcing me to strongly consider forcing them to comply with the law.

The Harrison Square Project involves the use of tens of millions of dollars of public financing. The financial assumptions underlying the project are clearly public information and should be provided to any and all citizens wishing to analyze the project.

On May 22nd I filed five additional “public records requests” concerning the Harrison Square Project. As of June 29th, 2007 I have not received any of the information I requested on May 22nd. I filed another complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor on June 29th.

Why is the City desperately trying to hide the projected occupancy rate of the newly proposed downtown hotel?

Why is the City refusing to provide information so an independent Certified Public Accountant can analyze the project?

Mike Sylvester, CPA


Anonymous said...

We clearly just need to get all of the people currently in charge of the city out of office and replace them with people who have common sense and respect for the US Constitution. Those people are generally referred to as libertarians.

The fact that Libertarians are not running this country just confuses me. The American people can do much better.

Jeff Pruitt said...

The Indiana Code (IC 24-2-3-2) defines trade secret as:

""Trade secret" means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:

(1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and

(2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

So how does an estimated occupancy rate "derive independent economic value"? I think their argument is a real stretch...

Robert Enders said...

It doesn't matter if its a "trade secret". The private half of the public-private partnership needs to show that it can hold its end of the bargain up.

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