IC 5-23-5-6 Disclosure of contents of proposals
Sec. 6. The governmental body may refuse to disclose the contents of proposals during discussions with eligible offerors.
The coverage regarding the recent political conflicts and decisions surrounding the State Street Project are fascinating to watch as someone who has been closely following the events unfold.
If you haven’t already listened to the West Lafayette Redevelopment Commission meeting from January 20th, you should. The discussion of State Street starts at 7:40.
I am looking forward to the minutes of this meeting and seeing how they compare to actual events.
The three major news outlets, the Journal and Courier, WBAA, and WLFI all had slightly different perspectives on the events.
WLFI was the most sterile of the coverage (TV usually takes the most bland perspective). Nothing different unique in this article.
The Journal and Courier has had the most coverage of State Street but they have not questioned the narrative put forth by the City of of West Lafayette officials, Purdue, or the Joint Board regarding IC 5-23-5-6. In fact, the J&C keeps giving inches and ink to the narrative:
Steve Schultz, Purdue’s attorney, bristled Thursday, saying he wanted the record “to be crystal clear” that city and university officials working on the State Street project had been confidential but had followed the letter of the law “to the T.”
UPDATE 2016-01-29: In Dave Bangert’s recent piece, Objections soften over State St. details, he mentions the fact that it was optional to withhold information regarding the proposals.
The city and university were given the option under state law to hold back information during the negotiation period with possible contractors in the novel “build-operate-transfer” bidding process. Both sides opted to go that route, locking up details by making those involved in negotiations sign confidentiality agreements that kept even Mayor John Dennis out of the conversation.
Thankfully, WBAA’s coverage of the Joint Board’s January 21st meeting included this blurb:
But comments after the announcement noted the state’s so-called “build-operate-transfer” rubric only says such projects may be kept under wraps, not that they must. Schultz noted the letter of the law says only that the documents must be made public at a meeting like Thursday’s, when the Joint Board announces a winner.
Stan Jastrzebski expanded on this with an article on WBAA’s WordPress site: Build Operate Transfer (or: How I Learned To Stop Hiding And Love Transparency).
It’s funny how, in most professions, when someone provides you with unique information, a new perspective, and/or inspires you to create new work, attribution or credit is usually provided and appreciated.
I mentioned this to Stan on Twitter and he responded with the following:
Well that makes sense. I’m just looking at it wrong.
Instead of giving the name of both individuals who spoke during Public Comments (Bunder and I were the only ones to make comments and Bunder was named), I should relish in the knowledge that what I said was important.
For the annals of West Lafayette history, it was irrelevant that it wasn’t a nameless, faceless individual (not a group of commenters) who said this important fact to the Joint Board, at their Public meeting, calling out the City officials, the Mayor, the Joint Board’s legal team, and Purdue for their lack of pro-active transparency and deflating their shoulder shrugging “But we are following the letter of the law” narrative.
It’s obvious now. Everyone else in the audience would have said the same thing. They just weren’t at the meeting. Everyone was thinking about IC 5-23-5-6, they just went to the restroom during the Public Comment portion on January 21st. Everyone in the media is getting ready to call out the narrative perpetuated by elected and appointed officials, lawyers, Purdue, and the Joint Board.
The piece just needs one more edit. One more review before it goes live.
I wrote Stan back on twitter:
I’m chalking this as a difference in mass media philosophy.
We’ll see what happens with the state of transparency in Tippecanoe county. Being a constituent is hard work. Join me if you can. A lot of important meetings coming up in February. The 1st is City Council, the 3rd is a Redevelopment work session, 4th is a State Street learning session at Happy Hollow etc.
I promise if you get involved that I will give you credit for your work.
Here are the written comments I made (paraphrased at points during actual delivery) to the Joint Board at their January 21st meeting. Audio to follow.
- Thank you.
- Again, the Claim information was not included on the table when we entered the meeting.
- Will all of the PowerPoints utilized tonight by the Joint Management Team and the Joint Board, also be uploaded to the City’s web site after tonight’s meeting?
- It was joked that the documents submitted by one of the teams were delivered in a small moving van.
- In less than a month, the Financial and Technical teams read through these truck loads of proposal pages, gave out up to 105 points to each proposal, on a variety of metrics, and then meditate on these findings, all in less than a calendar month. That included holidays, the New Year, and other life interruptions.
- The decision we make moving forward will impact generations, such as my son Hieronymus, along with future residents, some will make their decision to call West Lafayette their home based on the the State Street Project.
- I appreciate the Mayor’s extension of time for the Public to review the proposals from the meager 10 days to 20 days. Maybe it is because the Public only has access to heavily redacted copies of the proposals, allowing a more light reading vs. the intense details.
- I had made a public records request for the proposals submitted to the Joint Board on January 12th. I heard back from Ms. Daniels on January 14th:
- The Board is reviewing the proposals and anticipates having disclosable public records within 30 business days.
- I followed up with a request for the current redacted portions of the proposals on January 14th and Ms. Daniels responded on January 15th stating:
- Furthermore, the Board is currently engaged in discussions with at least two (2) eligible offerors. Pursuant to IC 5-23-5-6, the Board will not disclose records related to the contents of the proposals that are under discussion at this time.
- IC 5-23-5-6 Reads: Disclosure of contents of proposals: Sec. 6. The governmental body may refuse to disclose the contents of proposals during discussions with eligible offerors.
- I spoke with Luke Britt, the Public Access Counselor for the State of Indiana, and he told me that it was at the pleasure of the governmental body if they wished to refuse disclosure of the proposals. They were not compelled under the law to withhold the proposals from the Public.
- I am disappointed in the narrative put forth by a variety of Public officials, that the Joint Board’s hands were tied from disclosing the redacted proposals to the Public until tonight, when Indiana Code clearly states that the governmental body MAY disclose the contents of the proposals.
- I look forward to a more transparent process moving ahead.
- Thank you.