Sunday, December 17, 2000

Court orders release of stadium documents

'Public has a right of access,' ruling says

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A court ordered Hamilton County officials Friday to release documents and correspondence about cost overruns during the construction of Paul Brown Stadium.

        County officials had refused to make the documents public despite repeated requests by Enquirer reporters.

        The county contended the documents could remain secret because they involved records from the private firms hired to do work at the stadium.

        But the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the records involved a huge public expense and should be made public.

        “The (county) cannot play a shell game with public records,” Judge Ralph Winkler wrote in the court's opinion. “The public has a right of access to the records, regardless of where they are physically located, or in whose possession they may be.”

        County Administrator David Krings said the county already has provided all documents in the possession of county officials. He said he does not know what other documents may be in the hands of the private firms.

        Cost overruns at the football stadium have reached $50.6 million, pushing the total cost to $457.6 million.

        The court ruling is the second in the past week involving the Enquirer's efforts to obtain stadium-related documents.

        Common Pleas Judge Steven Martin ruled earlier this week that Cincinnati's Urban Design Review Board must hold public meetings when its members review architectural designs for publicly funded projects.

        The newspaper sued in that case after reporters were denied access to meetings regarding the Reds' new stadium on the riverfront.

        The judge said the board's meetings should be open whenever the discussion involves a city contract with a private developer.

        He said the meetings would not necessarily be open if a city official consulted the board for advice about an issue unrelated to a city contract.


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