Convention Center records confidential until final contract signed
HAWAII — The Convention Center Authority does not have to release individual evaluation scores created in the selection of a developer to design and build a state convention center until a final contract is actually awarded, even though the chosen developer is already working with the convention authority on final contractual terms, the First Circuit Court in Honolulu ruled in mid-October.
In late August, the authority selected a joint venture of Nordic of Honolulu and PCL of Seattle to design and build the $200 million convention center, rejecting three other bids. However, under its own rules, the authority had 60 days to enter into a contract with the successful bidder. If a contract is not signed in that time, it may either select another bidder or reopen bids.
Because of the 60-day gap between selection and contract, the court said an exemption to disclosure in the state’s Uniform Information Practices Act applies. That exemption allows agencies to withhold records that “by their very nature must be kept confidential in order for the government to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function.”
The court said that because the authority can reject the Nordic and PCL proposal and seek new ones, release of the evaluation scores could interfere with the bidding process by giving a competitive edge to new bidders who might review them.
The Honolulu Advertiser and Common Cause asked the authority for the records in early September. When they were denied, they sought an opinion from the state’s Office of Information Practices which in late September advised that the evaluation scores could be withheld pending execution of a final contract.
The Advertiser, Common Cause, and several other news media then sued. They told the court that the evaluation criteria and points assigned on rating sheets would tell nothing about the content of actual development proposals. They said that the authority’s secrecy regarding rating methods and results calls the legitimacy of the selection process into question.
Because the Authority released the scores when the contract was signed shortly afterward, the news media decided not to appeal.
(Gannett Pacific Corporation v. Convention Center Authority; Media counsel: Jeffrey Portnoy)