City Covers Up Dealings with Penn Square Partners

 

     Reneges on promise to cooperate with Right-to-Know Request

                  NewsLanc files complaint with state officials

    Excerpts from Complaint to The Office of Open Records

“Gentle Persons:

“NewsLanc.com… publishes news letters and has been an active web site, for approximately a decade….

“LNP is a partner in Penn Square Partners, LLC that leases the downtown Lancaster Marriott Hotel from the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster, RACL.   RACL joined by LLC has an application before the Lancaster CRIZ Authority for a $5,600,000 grant and has recently modified that application to request an additional $3,393,987 for a total of $8,993,987…

“Attached please find a copy of the NewsLanc’s formal request to the City of Lancaster for information dated May 4, 2017 and other communications prior and subsequent.”

[EXCERPT FROM ACTUAL REQUEST: NewsLanc is requesting copies or access to all documents between and among RACL, the CRIZ Authority, and Penn Square Partners (PSP) pertaining to an application and written communications to and from PSP, its general partner, or firms with some ownership in common with the general partner concerning the expansion of the downtown Marriott Hotel by approximately a hundred guest rooms.”]

“We contend:

  • NewsLanc is investigating potential misuse of millions of dollars of future taxpayers’ money through a exaggerated estimate of project costs and possible inappropriate relationships between and among RACL, the CRIZ Authority, City officials, the Marriott lessee Penn Square Partners, and the partners in Penn Square Partners which include a subsidiary of High Real Estate Group, LLC and a subsidiary of the Lancaster Newspapers.
  • NewsLanc filed a clear and comprehensive description of its request, carefully following the directions by the City officials and the Right-To-Know Statute.
  • Initially the City Administrator, Patrick Hopkins, was helpful and responsive.   He indicated that they would collect the various materials requested but required a thirty-day additional period to perform the work. No objection was raised as to the nature or extent as of what was requested.
  • Sometime during the extension period, the initial approach by Patrick Hopkins, the City Administrator, was reversed, we suspect on instructions by his superiors.
  • The result was the City provided only copies of portions of the original CRIZ application and the following modification and a letter from Mr. Randy Patterson imagining to answer questions that he surmised NewsLanc had in mind rather than provided the explicitly requested items.
  • Moreover, the City subsequently is delaying and impeding matters by making three apparently contradictory assertions that 1) it needs more time to gather the material (a reasonable amount of time would not in itself be a problem), 2) that NewsLanc isn’t entitled to the material, and 3) that NewsLanc needs to file a new Request. They endeavor to delay the investigation, we suspect to provide time for bonds for the financing to be sold, thus making the CRIZ commitment irreversible. ..

Upon reviewing the above exhibits, it is apparent that during the thirty-day extension period there was some form of intervention with the City Administrator that has caused this matter not to be handled in the normal and regular manner that he originally set forth.  

          “The letter of June 13 is skillfully drawn, undoubtedly at considerable legal expense to the taxpayers, to deny, to misdirect, to confuse issues, and to delay by suggesting the need of a new Request that would duplicate the appropriate Request we submitted on May 3rd and they initially accepted.

” We therefore ask that the State to instruct the City to make the requested materials available as they originally indicated they would and do so without delay…”

 

FULL TEXT OF LETTER APPEARS BELOW

 

FEDERAL EXPRESS

June 21, 2017

 

Office of Open Records

555 Walnut Street,

Harrisburg, PA 17101

 

Re: City of Lancaster denial of requested records to NewsLanc

 

Gentle Persons:

NewsLanc / Real Reporting is a 501(c)foundation that for approximately a decade that publishes news letters and has been an active web site, www.NewsLanc.com / www.RealReporting.org for approximately a decade.   It serves as an alternate voice on matters of vital public importance to the Lancaster newspaper, LNP, the sole daily newspaper of major circulation in the region. The newspaper is published by the LNP Media Group, a division of the family-owned Steinman Enterprises.

LNP is a partner in Penn Square Partners, LLC that leases the downtown Lancaster Marriott Hotel from the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster, RACL.   RACL joined by LLC has an application before the Lancaster CRIZ Authority for a $5,600,000 grant and has recently modified that application to request an additional $3,393,987 for a total of $8,993,987.

NewsLanc is investigating the history of how the initial request for a CRIZ grant and modification thereto have come about, whether there has been inappropriate communications among the parties to the application including city and authority officials, and whether the amounts requested are bloated, since they appear to far exceed industry cost experience for the region and for the scope of the project to be undertaken.

Attached please find a copy of the NewsLanc’s formal request to the City of Lancaster for information dated May 4, 2017 and other communications prior and subsequent.

We contend:

  • NewsLanc is investigating potential misuse of millions of dollars of future taxpayers’ money through a exaggerated estimate of project costs and possible inappropriate relationships between and among RACL, the CRIZ Authority, City officials, the Marriott lessee Penn Square Partners, and the partners in Penn Square Partners which include a subsidiary of High Real Estate Group, LLC and a subsidiary of the Lancaster Newspapers.
  • NewsLanc filed a clear and comprehensive description of its request, carefully following the directions by the City officials and the Right-To-Know Statute.
  • Initially the City Administrator, Patrick Hopkins, was helpful and responsive.   He indicated that they would collect the various materials requested but required a thirty-day additional period to perform the work. No objection was raised at to the nature or extent as of what was requested.
  • Sometime during the extension period, the initial approach by Patrick Hopkins, the City Administrator, was reversed, we suspect on instructions by his superiors.
  • The result was the City provided only copies of portions of the original CRIZ application and the following modification and a letter from Mr. Randy Patterson imagining to answer questions that he surmised NewsLanc had in mind rather than provided the explicitly requested items.
  • Moreover, the City subsequently is delaying and impeding matters by making three apparently contradictory assertions that 1) it needs more time to gather the material (a reasonable amount of time would not in itself be a problem), 2) that NewsLanc isn’t entitled to the material, and 3) that NewsLanc needs to file a new Request. They endeavor to delay the investigation, we suspect to provide time for bonds for the financing to be sold, thus making the CRIZ commitment irreversible.

Below is a chain of correspondence between Newslanad and the City officials in preparation of NewsLanc making the formal Request, the Request itself, communications during the processing of the Request, the response by the City, subsequent communications between NewsLanc and the City officials about the City’s response, and finally the City’s confounding and contradictory demands.

 

  • Cover letter dated May 3 from Robert Field accompanying Public Information Request
  • The Public Information Request dated May 4
  • The City’s acknowledgement of receipt dated May 3
  • Letter of response to Request from Patrick Hopkins, City Administrator, of May 10.
  • Letter dated June 11 from Hopkins, along with the three exhibits
  • Letter of June 11 from Hopkins that is one of the exhibits
  • Field acknowledgement on June 11 of receipt of their submittal of information and offer to pick up other anticipated documents
  • Later letter from Hopkins of June 11 asking what additional information we are seeking
  • Field response to Hopkins of June 12 repeating initial request
  • Letter from Hopkins to Field concerning scope of the above communication.
  • Letter from Field to Hopkins with copies to Chief of Staff Pat Brogan and Mayor Rick Gray re-affirming the original scope of NewsLanc’s request.
  • Letter of June 13 from Hopkins to Field newly setting forth a position whereby the City 1) would not supply information, or 2) is going to supply the information given more time, or 3) requiring a new Request.

 

Upon reviewing the above exhibits, it is apparent that during the thirty day extension period there was some form of intervention with the City Administrator that has caused this matter not to be handled in the normal and regular manner that he originally set forth.   The letter of June 13 is skillfully drawn, undoubtedly at considerable legal expense to the taxpayers, to deny, to misdirect, to confuse issues, and to delay by suggesting the need of a new Request that would duplicate the appropriate Request we submitted on May 3rd and they initially accepted.

We therefore ask that the State to instruct the City to make the requested materials available as they originally indicated they would and do so without delay.

I can be directly contacted at rbtfield@aol.com and at 717 940 1221.

I can attend a hearing on this matter but request it not be scheduled from July 4 through July 21 since I will be away and at times out of touch during those times.

Sincerely,

NEWSLANC.COM

Robert E. Field, Publisher

 

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Updated: June 25, 2017 — 10:41 am

2 Comments

  1. That’s why if you were smart you’d get out of town. Anywhere is better than Lancaster, especially with taxes always going up!!!!

    PUBLISHER: We got out of town!

  2. The arrogance, complicity and under-handedness of this whole debacle is beyond belief and deserving of a full investigation by the state’s Attorney General office.
    Those found guilty should be tarred and feathered and run out of town

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