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Consumer group sues for state records on Carrier deal

June 30, 2017

A complaint filed Friday in Marion County Court by Citizens Action Coalition alleges that the governor’s office has violated the Indiana Access to Public Records Act by not providing the grass-roots consumer group documents it wants about Vice President and former Gov. Mike Pence’s communications involving Carrier Corp. and parent company United Technologies.

CAC staff attorney Jennifer Washburn sought certain records pertaining to the deal between Carrioer and the incoming Donald Trump administration to keep approximately 1,000 jobs at a Carrier manufacturing plant in Indianapolis. It was announced via Twitter by Carrier in late November and soon confirmed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Carrier had announced in February 2016 it planned to lay off about 1,400 workers and relocate the work to Mexico by 2019. The move got national attention after a worker posted a recording of the announcement to employees on social media.

Trump often criticized the layoffs during his campaign for president. Just a couple of weeks after the presidential election, Carrier tweeted it had reached a deal with Trump and Pence that would keep 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis. That number included more than 200 Carrier employees who were not affected by the layoffs and already were expected to stay in the city.

Washburn filed a public records request on Dec. 27 seeking communications between Pence’s office, Donald Trump, Donald J. Trump for President, and the Trump Organization from Nov. 14, 2016 through Nov. 29, 2016, that are related to or reference Carrier or related companies, as well as documents involving state entities or employees referencing or relating to Trump or Carrier during the same time period.

The complaint says it was nearly four months until Washburn heard anything about her request other than it was being worked on. A letter from the governor’s office dated April 13 asked her to clarify her request, citing “reasonable particularity” as required under APRA.

Washburn and CAC contend in their complaint that Washburn’s APRA request “identified specific senders and recipients of communications (the Office of Governor, Trump, Carrier), the subject matter (the negotiations between Carrier and then-Governor Pence), in a narrow and specific (November 14-29, 2016) two (2) week time frame.”

CAC and Washburn contend they don’t need to amend the request because Washburn believes her December request satisfied the reasonable particularity requirement of Indiana law.

“By failing to respond to her request in a reasonable period of time, demanding that she amend her already reasonably particular request, and failing to produce the documents responsive to Ms. Washburn’s request in a timely fashion, the Office of the Governor has improperly and contrary to APRA denied Plaintiffs’ request for public documents,” the complaint says.

CAC and Washburn seek a judgment ordering the governor’s office to make available to Washburn the records she sought and to expedite this case. They also seek reasonable attorney fees.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Eric Holcomb said Friday that his ofice was aware of the complaint and would review it.

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