CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — Some residents in a northern Iowa town are questioning the secrecy surrounding a multimillion dollar development deal supported by taxpayer dollars.
The $65 million deal to bring a regional warehouse and distribution center to Clear Lake involves a Fortune 100 company, but the company's name won't be revealed until hiring begins. This has concerned some residents who say the secrecy undermines openness about a project that will receive tax breaks.
John B. Johnson, a 57-year-old resident of rural Britt, told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1lFdfip ) the idea that governing bodies are committing millions of dollars to an unknown recipient defeats the purpose of open records and meeting laws.
Johnson filed open records requests with several city and county officials, who he had been told are the only people aware of the company's name. All denied having documents listing the Fortune 100 company, leading other residents to question the legality of the deal and wonder whether public officials are trying to hide something.
"I know we are supposed to trust our public officials, but I also want to make sure there's nothing hazardous or harmful about this (project) or something that would bring on heavy traffic," said Laura Williamson, a Clear Lake nurse.
Keith Luchtel, executive director of Iowa's Public Information Board, said it's common for corporation names to be kept secret in development deals while incentive and real estate packages are negotiated. The Clear Lake deal is unusual as public officials agreed to keep the company's name under wraps until the project's completion, he said.
"This one seems extreme in that (the Fortune 100) company is not going to surface until they are hiring people," Luchtel said.
Scott Flory, Clear Lake city administrator, said residents have been "overzealous" in their attempts to discover the company's name. He said dealings so far have been with the place-holder company, which is why there's no record of the Fortune 100 company, and that nothing illegal is taking place.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com