Pittsburgh officials are pushing back on a ruling demanding the city release its proposal for Amazon’s second headquarters.
Late Friday afternoon, the city and Allegheny County appealed a decision by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records that said the Amazon HQ2 bid was a public document and therefore couldn’t be kept secret. The appeals from the county and city claim that the ruling was biased and contained factual errors.
The Office of Open Records ruled in favor of Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV, one of several news organizations that filed right-to-know requests to see Pittsburgh’s proposal for the $5 billion second headquarters that Amazon promises to bring to the winning city.
The city and county claim that the proposal is protected by non-disclosure agreements with private landowners and therefore can’t be released to the public.
PGHQ2, an entity set up by Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to bid on Amazon’s second headquarters, released a statement tied to the appeal Friday.
“We have been very clear from the beginning of this process that we want Amazon to select our region as its second headquarters,” the statement said. “The proposal submitted by PGHQ2 was a collective effort by multiple local stakeholders, including the county and city. In addition to the legal arguments, releasing the proposal would put our region at a competitive disadvantage.”
There are 20 cities in the running for Amazon HQ2, largely considered the most competitive economic development contest in recent history. Some cities have released details of their proposals while others have kept them under wraps. Pittsburgh’s secrecy may endear it to notoriously secretive Amazon but transparency advocates are concerned that citizen tax dollars are being used in negotiations without their knowledge or consent.
In an interview with GeekWire, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald pushed back on that concern.
“You can’t have 1.3 million people negotiating a deal,” he said, referencing the population of the county he oversees.
“This is something that happens all the time,” Fitzgerald added. “I meet with companies, airlines, developers, that want to do business here.” Many of those conversations, Fitzgerald said, “never get out there.”