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Citizens Action Coalition sues for state records on Carrier deal

June 30, 2017
A complaint filed Friday in Marion County by Citizens Action Coalition alleges that the governor’s office has violated the Indiana Access to Public Records Act by not providing the grass-roots consumer group documents it wants about Vice President and former Gov. Mike Pence’s communications involving Carrier Corp. and United Technologies.

CAC staff attorney Jennifer Washburn sought certain records pertaining to the deal to save approximately 1,000 jobs at a Carrier manufacturing plant in Indianapolis announced in November 2016 by President-elect Donald Trump. Carrier announced in February 2016 it was sending those jobs to Mexico by 2019, which got national attention after a worker posted a recording of the announcement to employees on social media.

Trump often criticized the layoffs during his campaign for president. Just a couple weeks after his election, Carrier tweeted it had reached a deal with Trump and Pence.

Washburn filed a public records request on Dec. 27 seeking communications between Pence’s office, Donald Trump, Donald J. Trump for President, and the Trump Organization from Nov. 14, 2016 through Nov. 29, 2016, that are related to or reference Carrier or related companies, as well as documents involving state entities or employees referencing or relating to Trump or Carrier during the same time period.

The complaint says it was nearly four months until Washburn heard anything about her request other than it was being worked on. A letter from the governor’s office dated April 13 asked her to clarify her request, citing “reasonable particularity” as required under APRA.

Washburn and CAC contend in their complaint that Washburn’s APRA request “identified specific senders and recipients of communications (the Office of Governor, Trump, Carrier), the subject matter (the negotiations between Carrier and then-Governor Pence), in a narrow and specific (November 14-29, 2016) two (2) week time frame.”

A complaint filed with Public Access Counselor Luke Britt yielded a response earlier this month that the matter was not “ripe for the adversarial process” because Washburn had not acceded to the governor’s office’s request that her APRA request “be amended to satisfy legal requirements under APRA.”  

CAC and Washburn contend they don’t need to amend the request because Washburn believes her December request satisfied the reasonable particularity requirement of Indiana Code 5-14-3-3(a)(1).

“By failing to respond to her request in a reasonable period of time, demanding that she amend her already reasonably particular request, and failing to produce the documents responsive to Ms. Washburn’s request in a timely fashion, the Office of the Governor has improperly and contrary to APRA denied Plaintiffs’ request for public documents,” the complaint says.

CAC and Washburn seek a judgment ordering the governor’s office to make available to Washburn the records she sought and to expedite this case. They also seek reasonable attorney fees.

A spokesperson for Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office said they are aware of the complaint and will review it.
 

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