Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Clarion-Ledger & Renaissance face off today

The fight between the Clarion-Ledger and Andrew Mattiace will take place today at 1:30 in Chancellor William Singletary's courtroom.   The Chancellor sealed all records of Mattiace's application to the Mississippi Development Authority for $29 million in sales tax rebates for a proposed expansion of the Renaissance development.  Buster Bailey and Jim Barksdale of co-developers on the project as well.  The newspaper filed a motion to intervene and the two sides have skirmished through several motions and responses.

This correspondent and the Clarion-Ledger's Sarah Fowler filed public records requests in August seeking copies of the application for the sales tax rebate at MDA. MDA notified Mattiace as required by law.  Mattiace filed a motion for a protective order on September 3, 2015 and received it on the same day.  No notice of the motion was given to either the Clarion-Ledger of JJ.   The order sealed all MDA records concerning Renaissance's application.    MDA apparently identified 3,650 pages of records in response to the newspaper's request and would have charged $1,162 to provide the records.

The newspaper filed a motion to intervene and vacate the protective order.  The Clarion-Ledger is represented by Leonard Van Slyke and Matt Allen of the Brunini law firm.  Mark Garriga of Butler Snow represents Renaissance. The newspaper argued the taxpayers have a "right to know how their tax dollars are spent".  Section 57-1-14(1) of the Mississippi Code states:

any records of the department of economic and community development which contain client information concerning  development projects shall be exempt from the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983 for a period of two years after receipt of the information by the department
However, the newspaper argued that Section (2) applied as  it states:

Confidential client information in public records held by the department shall be exempt from...public records act during the period of review and negotiation on a project proposal and for a period of 30 days after approval, disapproval, or abandonment of the proposal not to exceed 1 year...
Section 2 protects the developer's confidentiality instead of section 1.  This is a big deal as there is a one year difference between the two sections.   The CL argues that Renaissance's records are governed by Section 2.  However, the newspaper also argues that Renaissance's two year exemption would expire this month as it submitted its application to MDA in December 2013.  Thus the CL asked the Chancellor to rule that the two-year exemption expires on December 24, 2015.

Renaissance opposed the motion to intervene.  It argued that it was not required to give notice to the CL and that it didn't suffer because the protective order was not a "final judgment" as it could be "replaced by another order".   Renaissance argues that it provided its application and other information because it thought its confidentiality was protected by the law.  It argues the law states there is indeed a one year exemption but the one year begins after MDA reviews and considers the project (Question: Is the granting of the certificate in June 2014 the end of the review?).

The main point of this response is Mattiace/Bailey/Barksdale/Gouras did not think the newspaper even had the right to argue its side in court.  In other words: shut up and sit down while we take our $30 million, and you will like it, _____.  Renaissance also asked the court to conduct an in camera review. The petition provides a list of the documents included in the application package:

1. Tourism application from Gouras & Associates
2. Check for $5,000
3.  Ms. Tourism Rebate Proram
4. Renaissance application for rebate (7 pages)
5. Business plan
6. Marketing Plan
7. Sales tax revenue subject to tax and categorized
8. Local government support
9. Renaissance brochure
10. Belhaven University demographic study
11. Nee-Schaffer Independent Study
12. Structure/Renaissance at Colony Park, LLC

Renaissance argued these documents all contained trade secrets.

The Clarion-Ledger responded a week later and reiterated the arguments made in its motion to intervene.  It did go further and state that the exemption expired on June 10, 2015 under the one-year exemption and December 24, 2015 under the two-year exemption.  However, the newspaper consented to allowing the court to review the contested information in private.

Renaissance filed its own response (Nothing like dueling lawyers from big firms) but argued that if the two year exemption applied, the clock starts running "from the date of receipt of the information by the department", not when the application was received.  That means every time Renaissance submits something, anything that is calls a trade secret to MDA, the clock resets to zero all over again.  Call it a rolling zero.   It thus argues that since MDA has "not made a final decision as to the scope of the certification and whether it applies to all phases" of the project.  Thus the two-year time period has yet to begin.  Mattiace even argues that Renaissance is now competing against other cities as well.

Stay tuned.

Documents filed in case: 
Motion for in camera review.  
 CL rebuttal to Renaissance response
CL response to motion for in camera review


Cosmos and Costcos said...

My money is on Andrew. Come on, Costco. Mama needs a new pair of shoes and a jumbo pack of paper towels

Anonymous said...

At least the clarion ledger will stand up to big business in the name of freedom of the press. Way to go CL! The rest of you on this blog give will up your rights so fast all that is needed is for a baby to fart...

Anonymous said...

Protecting businesses and their information as if it were a matter of National Security is bull shot when tax payer money is involved. If the information cannot be shared, nor should our money.

Anonymous said...

8:01. Not your money. Not the developers' money. Look at it as start-up funds that will allow the development to occur and then be paid back. And do you have a business or even a job? If so, put all of your company information and business plan on the front page for your competitors to see. By the way, don't take any tax write-offs or rebates of any kind.

Anonymous said...

In my long life of political involvement, it is my opinion that there are two things that motivate today's elected official; votes & money. Why would an elected official side with a foreign corporation against the will of thousands of voters? Why would elected officials side with developers from another jurisdiction against thousands of their voters? Why are lawyers suppose to side with their clients? What is the only motivating influence to a land speculator? Why do elected officials turn a blind eye to political corruption? Well, it is not votes so that only leaves money. There is an old saying; follow the money. There is a Bible verse, the root of all evil is money.
So, the question from citizens who fight for a better quality of life for their families & community without the motivation of financial gain; how much?

Anonymous said...

4:21, I hope your negative, pessimistic, assuming self is not involved in any political / government entities with which I am affiliated. I do not know why anyone wants to be an elected official, though some are called to serve, and for honorable reasons. For that matter I don't know why anyone would want to be a developer. Both go from being the hero to not being able to please anyone. There are many other Bible verses. Is that the only one you know? You should find something else in which to become involved since politics has brought you to this place. Peace be with you.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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