Q&A: Names of bidders for government work

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From the Indianapolis Business Journal:

Q: The newspaper has run into a roadblock in getting the names of those who submitted proposals for the redevelopment of a half of block of Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis.

The city is citing IC 5-22-9-4 as the basis for not giving any information. Should we be able to get the names of the bidders?

A: I’ve looked at the statute and think it’s one, unfortunately, with language that can be read in two ways.

I believe the legislative intent was to prevent someone from giving the contents of the proposals to a competing company so that it would have an advantage over the other companies during the negotiating process.

I don’t think revealing the names of those who submitted proposals would have that impact on the fairness of the process.

But I think the city has interpreted “contents” as everything, including the names of those who submitted proposals.

If correct on that reading, the city is correct in that revealing the “contents” would put them in liability of violating the Access to Public Records Act.

A quick check with Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage and the original PAC, Anne Mullin O’Connor, confirmed that the general interpretation of the statute fits the city’s position.

Hoage remarked that revealing the name of a bidder prior to the deadline for filing could impact competitors’ bids or lead to fewer bids.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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