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Watchdog sues state over Amazon headquarters secrecy

ST. PAUL -- A Minnesota watchdog group is suing the state for keeping secret the official bid to lure Amazon here for “HQ2,” its second corporate North American headquarters.

Public Record Media, a nonprofit whose stated goal is government transparency, filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday accusing the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development of violating the state Government Data Practices Act, which requires that government records be made public except under certain circumstances.

The state’s bid, which competed with those from 43 other states, failed, but DEED has refused to make it public, so no one knows what the state actually offered. It’s not theirs to share, the agency has stated to numerous media outlets, including the Pioneer Press.

The bid was prepared by Greater MSP, a civic group that has argued it isn’t a governmental agency beholden to the Data Practices Act. Greater MSP officials have also said a nondisclosure agreement they agreed to sign with Amazon prevents them from making the bid public.

In  its lawsuit, Public Record Media argues the bid wasn’t actually in the sole possession of Greater MSP, but rather in a cloud-based shared drive, known as “the Box,” and that DEED workers had access to that drive and contributed to its contents.

DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“All information concerning the State of Minnesota’s role, and offers of state taxpayer incentives to Amazon have been publicly disclosed. Greater MSP assembled and submitted the regions complete proposal for this project. The remainder of the proposal materials are in Greater MSP’s possession and are within their purview to disclose.”