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DEED files motion to dismiss Amazon-bid suit

Kevin Featherly//July 11, 2018

DEED files motion to dismiss Amazon-bid suit

Kevin Featherly//July 11, 2018

The Department of Employment and Economic Development wants a judge to dismiss a watchdog group’s lawsuit that seeks disclosure of Minnesota’s failed bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher M. Kaisershot, DEED’s trial counsel, filed the dismissal motion July 9. It will be heard Oct. 16 by Ramsey County District Court Judge Leonardo Castro. Castro was assigned to the case July 2.

The dismissal motion cites Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02, subdivisions (e) and (f), which allow dismissal “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” and for “failure to join a party pursuant to Rule 19.” (Rule 19 applies to the “joinder of persons needed for just adjudication.”)

The motion also cites Rule 56.01, which governs motions for summary judgment.

Public Record Media filed suit against the agency on June 28. Its suit followed the release by DEED of voluminous documentation to the watchdog group, including many pages of emails.

But DEED never disclosed what the group really wanted — the Amazon bid, which was subject to a nondisclosure agreement between Amazon and DEED. The agency’s Business Development Director Jeff Rossate signed the NDA on Sept. 21, 2017, according to records obtained by Public Record Media.

Emails obtained by the group include communications between agency staff, representatives of the Greater MSP economic development nonprofit, Amazon and legislative staff.

The communications show that DEED staff had access to and use of a file-sharing service known as “The Box,” shared with Greater MSP, Public Record Media founder Matt Ehling said last week. “The Box” contained both materials used to assemble the bid and the full bid document, he said.

Even if DEED no longer has access to those materials, Ehling said, it certainly did when his organization made its first Government Data Practices Act request on Oct. 19, 2017.

He wants Minnesota to disclose the bid so citizens can find out what taxpayer-funded financial incentives state government promised the company, Ehling said.

In his dismissal motion Kaisershot says Public Record Media already has received everything DEED has to offer.

“The grounds for the motion are that Public Record Media has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because DEED never collected, received, maintained or disseminated the unsuccessful proposal that is the subject of the complaint,” the motion states.

“A private entity” created the proposal and submitted it to Amazon, the filing maintains.

J.T. Haines, the attorney representing Ehling’s group, said late Monday that he is not sure he understands the dismissal motion.

“The complaint alleges that DEED did in fact ‘collect, receive, maintain, or disseminate’ the Amazon bid,” Haines said, “and therefore [it] properly states a claim on which relief can be granted.”

Haines said his client hopes to learn more about how DEED’s arrangement with Greater MSP supports what he calls the agency’s “amazing claim” that it never accessed the Amazon bid.

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