Court testimony reveals another way Pittsburgh and county officials justify sidestepping state open records law in Amazon case

Who owns Pittsburgh’s bid to host Amazon HQ2? The answer to this question appears to be a critical point in determining if the public has the right to see what the city and Allegheny County have offered to Amazon to lure its second headquarters to Pittsburgh. On the stand in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development Stefani Pashman testified that PGHQ2, a private subsidiary of the conference, owns the bid and merely shared copies of it with the city and county. City and county lawyers argued before Judge Terrence W. O’Brien that the city and county do not own the bid, which means the governments can’t be compelled to release it and that they don’t have the right to anyway. “They own the proposal, it’s their proposal,” said George Janocsko, a solicitor with the county law department, during arguments on behalf of the government Thursday.

Pittsburgh-area officials signed NDAs that could shield incentives offered to Amazon for up to five years

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration carefully orchestrated how the state would maintain a competitive edge as it helped Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other entities vie to be the home for Amazon’s second headquarters. Keeping the details of the incentive package close to the vest was chief among the priorities to ensure bids coming out of Pennsylvania had an advantage. Non-disclosure agreements were signed in early to mid-October, before a bid was ever submitted to Amazon. And Wolf’s officers wrote in a clause, reserving the right to keep information about the state’s quest for HQ2 under wraps for up to five years. The governor’s office is fighting in court to not release information about incentives the state offered to Amazon.

Advocacy groups file court brief supporting media efforts to make Pittsburgh’s Amazon HQ2 bid public

A community activist group announced Thursday that it filed an amicus brief on behalf of several news organizations, including PublicSource, that are fighting in court to make Pittsburgh’s Amazon HQ2 bid and related documents public. The American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania, among other groups, has signed onto the amicus brief. ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak said on Thursday to about a dozen people gathered in front of the City-County Building Downtown that Amazon would cause “an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude for this region.” He said everything from housing to the local economy to local politics would be affected. “No person will be unaffected, and you're going to have issues of fairness and justice abound everywhere,” he said. “Under those circumstances, it’s absolutely essential that the government activity that can lead to this earthquake must be made public.”

The protesters in attendance called on Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to release details of what the city offered the online retail giant to lure it to Pittsburgh.