A week ago I made a public records request for all correspondence, emails and other related documents regarding Queen City Square in order to determine if Western & Southern retains any equity ownership of the building – which is of particular interest to the citizens of Cincinnati in light of the fact that it is currently on the market to be sold for a profit. Who gets those profits if a sale occurs 2 years after completion? After being cooperative initially, when I started to focus on this equity question, the big money, the Port Authority took the position that it was not within their legal responsibility to supply this information. I was advised to hire an attorney in order to understand the documents they had supplied.
Even though I’m not trained as an attorney, I am not afraid of reading legal documents and do not believe the problem is with my lack of understanding The documents they have supplied do not address this issue. In fact, I’ve asked exactly where in the supplied documents this issue is addressed – and they will not answer.
When I followed up today to ask about the status of my request, here’s the answer I received:
Ms. Holwadel: We have reviewed and assessed the extent of your request and we estimate that it will result in a production of over 50,000 pages of documents. In order to respond more quickly, it would be helpful if you could either narrow or prioritize the type or subject matter of the documents requested. A significant number of documents are located off site and all documents will require review prior to production.
Paula Boggs Muething
VP of Community Revitalization & General Counsel
Over 50,000 pages of documents. And this is just from one agency. Remember, Citizens. This building also involved the City of Cincinnati, lots of motions, lots of paperwork. How many pages of documents are involved on that side of the legislative process that went into negotiating this deal for our city?
And if I were to ask for all the documents, of course they would have to charge me for the copies. I can’t afford to make this request. – even though it was at the recommendation of an experienced member of City Council staff. Since I’ve already asked very specifically about equity, Paula’s answer is the equivalent of “no.”
I’ve spent almost 6 months studying this building. I’m a smart, college-educated woman with a financial background, and decent legal literacy after 59 years of life experience. How is it that our elected representatives on City Council could possibly have been prepared to vote after the traditional committee process and emergency ordinance? While I am continually impressed by the caliber of individuals who run for City Council and make decisions for us – I have reached the conclusion that nobody could. The financial structure of Queen City Square is too complicated.
Does anybody out there have any idea as to the specific description of the document that might pertain to equity ownership? It’s not the Master Lease Agreement.. It’s not the Projected Budget. It’s not in the Construction Agreement or the City Funding Agreement or the hundreds of other pages of material I’ve read.
If I hadn’t seen a 15% figure in outside sources, maybe I’d quit banging my head against this wall. But I have seen it. And the Port Authority won’t tell me they own 100%.
Once again, I state unequivocally, if a government agency doesn’t want its citizens to have all the facts about what they are doing, then the Port Authority shouldn’t be doing it.