FOI Commission orders city to release bids
CONNECTICUT — The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission decided in mid- September that the city of Hartford was not permitted to withhold contractors’ applications from the Hartford Courant until one was hired. The newspaper filed suit against the city in 1993 for failure to provide it with prompt access to documents from contractors bidding on a city contract.
The files the Courant requested contained the responses of ten construction management companies to the city’s request for proposals to renovate and build an addition to an elementary school and the city’s evaluations of those responses.
The city complied with the request prior to the Commission hearing but five months after the Courant submitted its request and after the city signed a letter of intent with the winning bidder.
After the city’s advisory board whittled the number of potential contractors down to three, the city manager chose one in mid- February 1993 and submitted the company’s name to the city council for approval. In early March, the paper submitted a request to see the ten applications, and four days later, the city sent a letter denying the request. Then-city manager said disclosing the applications would “jeopardize the competitive procurement process.” The Courant brought its case to the Commission in late March.
“Everything about RFPs [Requests for Proposals] is negotiable,” said Karen Buffkin, attorney for Hartford. “A company that is still in contention for the job could see [from disclosure] that we were willing to pay another company more. We would lose our competitive advantage.”
The Commission disagreed and ordered the city to strictly comply in the future with the FOI law. However, the Commission held that the city was entitled to withhold the evaluations of the applications, but not the applications themselves. The city has filed an appeal in Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford-New Britain.
(City of Hartford v. Freedom of Information Commission; Media Counsel: Ralph Elliot, Hartford)