The Westfield Redevelopment Commission voted Monday to retroactively approve what previously had been an informal agreement with the company that manages the ball diamonds at Grand Park Sports Campus.
Bullpen Tournaments’ relationship with the city has been the subject of public scrutiny since a Westfield City Council member first alleged the company did not remit $470,000 to the city according to a 2014 revenue-sharing agreement. Grand Park Director William Knox has since said the city entered into an informal agreement with Bullpen in 2018 that assigned the company maintenance duties in lieu of that payment to ultimately save the city $253,000.
The redevelopment commission voted 3-2 Monday to make the informal agreement official—along with a related document establishing the cost of those services—but not every commission member was allowed to bring up concerns about the agreement before the vote.
Commission President Joe Plankis denied member Brian Ferguson’s request to ask questions after a few minutes of discussion, citing a need to move on to other matters.
“That’s unbelievable,” Ferguson said as Plankis started to call role for the vote.
City administration appointees Plankis, Jill Doyle and Dan Holtz voted in favor of the agreements. Ferguson and Bob Beaudry, the commission’s council appointees, voted against them.
Westfield City Council Member Troy Patton first publicly alleged in July 2020 that Bullpen had failed to meet the standards of its contract, which required an escalating percentage of the company’s revenues be given to the city’s redevelopment commission.
Mayor Andy Cook responded by saying the city had reached an alternative, informal agreement with Bullpen. He then vetoed the council’s attempt at additional oversight of the park’s contracts and launched a third-party financial review of all city practices.
The State Board of Accounts filed a supplemental compliance report late last year to expound upon its review of Westfield’s 2018 finances that indicated city officials failed to comply with state laws and guidelines, and that the city’s informal contracts with Bullpen were never properly enacted.
Beaudry said his biggest problem with the retroactive approval was that it made a decision involving public money without providing a clear understanding of the financials involved.
Todd Burtron, Westfield’s chief of staff, cautioned against broadly describing the revenue-sharing agreement as using public money.
He and Manny Herceg, the city’s attorney through Indianapolis-based Taft Stettinus & Hollister LLP, said Bullpen’s financials are considered trade secrets because they would reveal admission totals, tournament revenue and other fees the company keeps confidential.
If the protected information was publicly disclosed against Bullpen’s wishes, the city could be exposed to litigation, Herceg said.
“We may not be selling pharmaceuticals or something, it’s baseball tournaments,” Bullpen Owner Ken Kocher said. “But it’s a very, very competitive landscape. We want to be careful as far as what we do and what we disclose up there. They probably know too much already.”
Burtron said commission members could view the profit and loss sheets to determine the actual amount owed under the original agreement by visiting his office.
“Those exhibits are viewable; there are no barriers to see those,” he said.
Beaudry said he wouldn’t vote in support of formalizing the agreement because he’s not had adequate time to review those figures.
“I don’t know that, besides Joe (Plankis), if anybody else has taken an initiative to look at these agreements, these numbers. But you’re certainly rushing to vote on it anyway,” Beaudry said. “I’m not willing to agree to this because I haven’t had access. Basically, you’re voting blindly.”
Plankis said he reviewed Bullpen’s financial documents, and they are typical profit and loss statements. He said releasing that information could give Grand Park’s competitors an advantage, and that he felt additional review of the financials would have no bearing on memorializing the agreement.
“This is a memorialization of old news,” Plankis said. “Everything we’re talking about is past history.”