Philly Likely to Appeal Order to Release Amazon HQ2 Bid

A state agency has ruled that the city must release its full pitch to Amazon within 30 days.

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City officials say they are considering appealing a state agency’s order to release financial details regarding Philadelphia’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruled that Philadelphia officials have 30 days to release any financial enticements included in their bid — information that the city has sought to redact on the basis that doing so could reveal “confidential proprietary information and trade secrets.”

Philly was one of 238 localities that submitted a bid for Amazon’s second headquarters in October. Despite receiving multiple Right to Know requests, including one from Philadelphia magazine, officials have yet to release a full copy of that bid, which, in a collective public and private effort, cost local organizations roughly a quarter of a million dollars to prepare and publicize.

The OOR ruling comes after a citizen named Megan Shannon filed a Right to Know request for the city’s bid in January, then appealed to OOR after the city denied her request.

In a statement on Monday, city spokesman Mike Dunn said that while officials are “still reviewing the [OOR] ruling, we anticipate filing an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.”

City and state officials across North America have offered Amazon incentives like tax breaks and land in an attempt to secure the online retail giant’s second headquarters, or HQ2, which the company pledges will bring the winning locality 50,000 jobs at an average salary of $100,000. Philadelphia is not alone in its lack of transparency — other cities have remained mum about their bids as well.

Philly officials had argued that releasing the full bid would harm the city’s negotiating position and future economic development initiatives. Among other things, Philadelphia Department of Commerce first deputy director Sylvie Gallier-Howard wrote in an affidavit to the OOR that releasing the information would allow competing cities to “use the carefully crafted strategy the City created with its partners to better position themselves at the City’s expense, allow them to match or exceed the incentives offered by the City, and otherwise attempt to point out flaws in the City’s proposal in an attempt to strengthen their own,” according to the OOR’s ruling.

But the agency found such statements “speculative and conclusory,” according to its ruling. The city now has 30 days to appeal to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

Shannon, who previously described herself as a lawyer in an email to Philadelphia magazine, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday morning.