The Department of Economic and Community Development says it will not release the incentives offered in its failed bid to have Amazon build a second headquarters in Connecticut.
DECD said last week, in response to a Freedom of Information Request, that the information is exempt from disclosure because it is both a draft document and a trade secret. Connecticut was not among the 238 bids that advanced last week to the next round of consideration.
Agency General Counsel Lisa G. Bakanas said the information constitutes a trade secret “due to the competitive nature of the effort and the potential impact on future bids,” and that DECD “has determined that the public interest in withholding the documents outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
The Record-Journal has filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission over DECD’s decision to withhold the information.
In October, Connecticut submitted an application to Amazon as the company looks for a location for its second headquarters, a process the company has dubbed HQ2.
The proposal pitched locations in Stamford and on the Hartford-East Hartford line, along the Connecticut River, and touted the state’s educated workforce, quality of life, and proximity to both New York City and Boston, but at a lower cost than either city.
A video message from Gov. DannelP. Malloy also displayed the logos of several companies, including ESPN, Pratt & Whitney and Travelers, that have headquarters in the state.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press obtained information on the cost to put together the bid, including $35,000 for renderings and drone imagery. The state was also billed $5,250 by a Connecticut-based web developer to design the website, CTisPrime.com.
DECD also denied the AP’s request for information on the economic incentives offered to Amazon.
The agency claimed that the information remains exempt, despite no longer having the opportunity to negotiate with Amazon, because it is a trade secret.
The state’sFOI Act defines trade secrets as information that “derive(s) independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from their disclosure or use, and…(is) the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain secrecy.”
A spokeswoman for Malloy declined to comment on DECD’s decision. In October, the governor described the incentives as being part of a “multi-pronged approach” to Amazon.
“We’ve made a decision not to talk about dollars and cents, at least until later in the process, but there is certainly an expectation – and the package is put together to certainly invite communities to participate in an incentive system,” he said.
Dan Klau, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, said the fact that DECD shared the information with Amazon shows the document was no longer an agency draft. He also questioned whether the package of incentives would qualify as a trade secret, although he said it would be a tough decision for the FOI Commission.
“I think it would be difficult to predict with any certainty” what the FOI Commission — or a court, in the case of a possible appeal — would decide.
The AP did obtain information from Missouri, which offered nearly $2.5 billion in incentives, spread over 10 years, as part of its bid, which was also rejected last week. Most states, like Connecticut, have not disclosed the details of their offers to Amazon.