City appeals state ruling to provide information to NewsLanc re $9 million CRIZ award

On July 26, Office of Open Records Appeals Officer Kathleen A. Higgins, Esq. determined that  the City of Lancaster should turn over information pertaining to Lancaster’s controversial City Revitalization and Improvement Zone.

Penn Square Partners has asked for a $9 million CRIZ contribution (not repayable) towards the expansion of the Lancaster Marriott Hotel. The money is to be funded by bonds paid from future tax revenues or, failing to do so, the City of Lancaster.

By filing our Right-To-Know request, Newslanc simply asks for information about this important and expensive government program.

“The objective of the Right to Know Law … is to empower citizens by affording them access to information concerning the activities of their government,” Higgins wrote in her July decision.

We couldn’t agree more.

But apparently the City of Lancaster and Penn Square Partners do not believe the public should be informed.

In response to the state Open Records ruling, on August 22, the law firm of Zimmerman, Pfannebecker, Nuffort and Albert, LLP appealed on behalf of the City of Lancaster.

The hiring of outside counsel suggests a will to press its appeals not only at the state administrative level but, as needed, through the Court of Common Pleas, the Commonwealth Court, and possibly all the way to the state Supreme Court. 

All of this could tie up the requested information for years, not to mention the huge cost in outside legal fees to the city.

One wonders why the City of Lancaster is seeking to prevent the public from getting this information?  Here are some possibilities, among others:

1)   The information may prove very embarrassing, suggesting cronyism inappropriate in the  dealings of the City through its CRIZ Authority and its  Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster (RACL) with Penn Square Partners. Penn Square Partners after all has requested the CRIZ funding towards the development of a hundred room expansion of the Lancaster Marriott Hotel — which it leases from RACL and has an option to buy at a very low price.

2)   A closer look may question how a lessee can be a recipient of a CRIZ grant and, if not, whether it is appropriate for one city authority, CRIZ, to provide a $9 million award of state tax money to another city authority, RACL.

3)   Mayor Rick Gray, an experienced criminal defense attorney, may be concerned that the files may disclose fraudulent conduct and is seeking to ‘run out the clock’ for investigation and indictments.

The suppositions could go on and on.

The complete quote from the Open Records officer is as follows:
“The objective of the Right to Know Law … is to empower citizens by affording them access to information concerning the activities of their government. … Further, this important open-government law is ‘designed to promote access to official government information in order to prohibit secrets, scrutinize the actions of public officials and make public officials accountable for their actions.’ ”

Only with the release of information can the public truly understand what is going on with its government, its agencies, and its money, and why.

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Updated: August 24, 2017 — 7:05 am

5 Comments

  1. Don’t forget the Mayor Rick Gray is a Liberal Democrat Lawyer just like the corrupt Clintons using the loopholes they created to their advantage in order to hide their shady deals.

  2. Why don’t they want the public to know ??

  3. Mayor Gray may be a ‘liberal Democrat lawyer’ but his power base is definitely filled with lots of money grubbing republicans. I dare say that the PSP is not exactly overloaded with ‘liberal democrats.’

  4. “Outside counsel”? Isn’t that firm the City’s solicitor?

    Don’t get me wrong, this deal, the City and their unholy alliance with PSP is as crooked as it gets, I just would not describe their legal representation in that regard.

    On the other hand, I will remind everyone that when the hoteliers went to court against the County and the LCCCA, PSP, not a defendant in that suit, brought in their own “outside counsel” from Phildelphia, I believe Ballard Spahr, to object in open court and argue against the release and publication of the RFP they were using to attract a hotel developer.

    PSP was still expecting to sell out of this deal at that point and simply profit from construction, steel and consulting contracts. At the time, in direct contradiction to what the LCCCA (Lancaster County Convention Center Authority) was saying, PSP (Penn Square Partners) was guaranteeing any potential developer management fees on the CC if they would develop the hotel. Of course even though the LCCCA denied any such decision had been made at that point, it so turned out that the hotel manager DID in fact get the CC management contract.

    If I remember correctly, you might even call PSP’s tactic to ensure that a “strong-arm move” with an ultimatum to walk if they did not get their manager.

  5. Maybe we can get the state Auditor General involved…..if it looks ‘fishy’, if it smells ‘fishy’, if it tastes ‘fishy’….it must be fishy.

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