Request for Harrison Square Info Denial Received

Added September 19, 2008: This looks like it will be resolved Monday, 9/22/2008, when the release of the requested information has been promised to occur.  Read this updated post for more information – and thank you for your interest!

Today, I received the letter of denial from the City of Fort Wayne concerning my request for a document given to the Redevelopment Commission on Monday at their regular meeting.  If you haven’t been following, Jim Irwin of Barry Real Estate gave a presentation to the Commissioners concerning where the project stands in relation to expenditures and projections, what Hardball Capital has contributed toward their $5 million requirement and some possible additions to the ballpark if it continues to remain on track financially.

The letter I received today from Carol Taylor, City Attorney states:

[…] We are declining to provide the information given by Jim Irwin based on Indiana Code 5-14-3-4(b)(6) as these documents are intra-agency advisory or deliberative material that are expressions of opinion or of a speculative nature that are communicated for the purposes of decision making.

I agree that the portion of the spreadsheet Mr. Irwin gave to the Commissioners relating to possible expenditures if the project remains on-track, could be considered to be of a “speculative nature communicated for the purposes of decision making.”  The first part of the code, concerning “advisory or deliberative”, well, I guess that’s up to interpretation.  As far as the document being an intra-agency advisory or material, well, last I knew, Mr. Irwin did not work for the City, he works for Barry Real Estate.  From what I understood in the meeting, the document originated from BRE, not the City.  I would respectfully submit that the City has no say in whether or not this document should be released – BRE has the say since it’s their document.

I am still disappointed at this turn of events.  The tax-payers of this community DESERVE an update of the finances of the project and in particular, the contributions of Hardball Capital towards the ballpark.  Yes, BRE/HC are scheduled to be in front of City Council on November 18, 2008.  But, that is too long to wait.  What makes an update even more needed at this point is the fact that BRE has missed the window it set for itself to start construction of The Harrison by September 1st.  Their reason they’ve missed the window is economy related.  It’s even more important that the community have assurances in the form of a list of the contributions already made, that Hardball Capital is still in this game and truly doing what they can to make this project a reality.

This is what I am going to do.  Tomorrow, I will be completing the necessary paperwork to file a formal complaint with the Office of the Public Access Counselor.  This process, however, is not a quick fix answer.  In fact, the process could take weeks or even a month or two to be completed.  So, I will be submitting another request to the City to release the current numbers for the Harrison Square project and itemized amount of the contributions by Hardball Capital towards the ballpark.  This request will not mention the Jim Irwin document.  Even if this last request is successful, I will still pursue the complaint with IPAC because I think it important to have a decision on this matter.

I was going to wait until tomorrow to announce this, and I will probably make a formal announcement then, but I am opening up comments so that you do not need to sign in or sign up for anything.  This is a test which I will evaluate in three weeks to see whether or not it will be kept open.  I really want to hear from you regarding the release of the Harrison Square budget information.  There is also a poll question on this issue.  Please take a moment and let me know where you stand on this.

[poll id=”12″]

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  1. This is another example of the “keep the public in the dark” activity during this whole fiasco – starting with the”secret” (but illegal) buying of the properties, the improper use of TIF monies before their use was legal, the “after-the-fact” approval of actions taken by the Redevelopment Department, et al. My main concern is the impossibility to track if Hardball really is contributing “in-kind” at their costs as they promised or are they taking a profit on each item that they purchase that is on the list of “required” items needed to run the baseball team – like pitching machines, whirlpool baths, et al. This is now, by my count, the sixth time that the citizen taxpayers of Fort Wayne have had to turn their other cheek – I’m getting very red in the face and I am getting more upset every day.

  2. Stephen, I just spoke to Greg Leatherman on this issue because it is of concern to me as well. He said that there are 2 documents in question that were requested by you and also by Ben Lanka. The first is the TIF spreadsheet showing revenues and projections. He told me that this document was provided to you on Wednesday. Is that correct?

    The second document was one sheet of paper with two parts. Let’s call the first part 2A, and it is the report from Berry as to how they have spent the $5.6 million they are required to contribute to the project. Greg told me that you should have that information on Monday. The second part, 2B, is a “wish list” of items that might or might not be purchased subject to available funding and the preference of the Redevelopment Commission. I do think that the 2B part is speculative but I attempted, unsuccessfully, to argue for its release. The reason for the delay in releasing 2A is that it needed to be separated from 2B.

  3. Hi Karen,

    Yes, I did receive document 1. I spoke with Greg right before the City Council meeting Tuesday night. I shared with him my concerns and agreement that the speculative info perhaps did not need to be released, however the rest of it should have been. He agreed and said they would work on it for the next time. It’s the “next time” that has bothered me as next time could be 24 hours, 2 weeks, a month….

    All in all, I am glad that the info will be released. It’s very important that we know what’s going on. And thank you for your time in calling Greg to inquire about the info.

    I woke up this morning with a terrible cold and headache, so I didn’t accomplish any of the things I wanted to – which now looks to be a good thing.

    Thank you, Karen!

  4. Thank You for standing up for the community of Fort Wayne. Too many of us do not have enough knowledge of the system to be adequate watchdogs. There is too much at stake to allow commitments and responsibilities to fall through the cracks. Again, Thank You for going to bat for us!

  5. Hi Andy,

    Thank you for your comments! I do appreciate them. I felt this too important to let go.

    As a result of this I’m thinking of doing a series of posts regarding how to request information, how to appeal a decision that you do not agree with and our right’s and responsibilities.

    I’m just an average citizen. I have no position or power, other than that of this blog and the ability to stand up for what is right. You can do the same thing at any time!

  6. This entire scenario signals another reason why we need an ordinance on Open Government.

    It also brings to the forefront an ambiguous and inconsistent “policy” committee by committee of sharing or not sharing handouts discussed by public bodies at public meetings with citizens physically present. Some do and some don’t even when the handouts are prepared by staff to the committees and not covered under the exception used above.


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