Judge: Indianapolis not required to reveal Amazon bid proposal

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The details of Indianapolis’ bid for Amazon’s second headquarters project might never be revealed after a judge ruled that the documents aren’t required to be released under Indiana’s public records law.

The publication Tax Analysts filed a lawsuit a year ago against the Indiana Economic Development Corp. seeking information about Indianapolis’ failed proposal to lure the retail distribution giant to the city. A hearing took place in February.

But Judge John Chavis late last month ruled that the agency isn’t required to release the documents because it didn’t certify the proposal as a final offer.

The state’s public records law has some exemptions, including records of negotiations with the IEDC. But the law mandates that the terms of a final offer must be revealed after negotiations finish, The Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday.

The IEDC, which also assisted the city of Gary with its proposal, has argued that proposal documents don’t include an offer or a final offer, but that they would be subject to public disclosure after negotiations are complete.

Chavis wrote in his ruling that the law is interpreted to mean that a “final offer” is “more than just the initial, only and last proposal that was on the table at the time the clock ran out on negotiations between Indianapolis and Amazon.”

The judge noted that he will review one additional document—a confidential questionnaire that Amazon sent after Indianapolis was announced as a finalist in 2018—to ensure it doesn’t include a final offer.

Cornish Hitchcock, an attorney for Tax Analysts, said he’s disappointed with the decision and is considering an appeal.

“(IEDC) was willing to spend $1.5 billion, maybe $2.75 billion to help Gary,” Hitchcock said. “It’s a fair question to wonder how much it was willing to spend to help Indianapolis.”

IEDC officials declined to comment on the ruling.

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