Louisville’s failed Amazon bid, along with other rejected offers and trade secrets, could be formally shielded under proposed changes to Kentucky’s open records laws.
House Bill 387, filed Thursday by Rep. Jason Petrie (R-Elkton), would allow public agencies to exclude a variety of economic development-related subjects from responses to open records requests.
Among the information that could be blocked from public view: Identities of shareholders, proposed but ultimately rejected economic incentives and companies interested in locating to another state.
Confidential and proprietary information that “permit an unfair commercial advantage to competitors of the entity that disclosed the records” is protected by the current open records law. That would be expanded to include “a trade secret” that would give an unfair commercial advantage to “any person” — not just competitors.
Any information declared confidential by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority would also be allowed to be withheld from public view.
HB 387 freshly defines a trade secret as “financial information, information regarding the identity or investment interest of shareholders and present or future business plans.”
Michael Abate, an attorney familiar with open records law, said the bill would “create more secrecy” for recent news topics like the names of Braidy Industries investors and unsuccessful bids, like Louisville’s quest to lure Amazon to the area.
In March 2018, the Courier Journal sued Louisville after the city withheld a copy of the rejected bid to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to the area. A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ordered city officials to turn over a copy of the bid in September, which the city appealed.
The legal battle continues. When asked, Abate said HB 387, if passed, would “most likely” protect the bid from being released.