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Allegheny

Team behind Pittsburgh's Amazon bid lobbies to keep details secret

Aaron Aupperlee
| Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, 4:18 p.m.
REUTERS

The team behind Pittsburgh's bid for Amazon's second headquarters wants the city and Allegheny County to keep the proposal secret and appeal a ruling by Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records that says the bid should be released to the public.

“This is not about special treatment for Amazon but about participating in a confidential nationwide process that is extremely competitive,” PGHQ2, a stand-alone company formed to develop and submit the bid, said in a statement Thursday.

The state office ordered the city and county to make the bids and emails related to it public in 30 days.

“While we respect the decision of the Office of Open Records, we believe it to be in the best interests of Pittsburgh to file a legal appeal of its decision,” the statement read.

PGHQ2 was formed Oct. 6 and is listed as a limited liability corporation, according to records available on the Pennsylvania Department of State website. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, have been the public faces of PGHQ2 since the bid was submitted.

PGHQ2 wrote that it believes the bid is protected from disclosure under the state's Right to Know Law. Attorneys for the city and county have argued the bid should not be made public because it contains proprietary information and trade secrets. The state's Office of Open Records rejected that claim in its order Wednesday . The office also ordered the release of emails between public officials about the bid.

The city and county can appeal the decision to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. On Wednesday, PGHQ2 issued a statement saying that the city and county were reviewing the case to determine how to proceed.

“To be clear, no action will be taken on any proposed public investment in this opportunity without a full, open, public and transparent process. We are excited to be competing against other top cities in North America, and we intend to honor our commitments to private stakeholders regarding the confidentiality of our bidding materials,” PGHQ2 said in its statement Thursday. “We look forward to revealing all details of our proposal when it is appropriate to do so as part of Amazon's selection process.”

News organizations, including the Tribune-Review, and private citizens have filed open records requests under the Right to Know Law for access to the bid, emails and other communications between public officials and Amazon. Those requests have been denied.

Amazon last week named Pittsburgh and 19 other cities as finalists for its second headquarters.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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