I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Who Spilled the Beans?

Unfortunately, it appears as if someone with inside knowledge of a recent Economic Development Negotiation has disclosed confidential information (potentially confidential per 288.075 Fl. statutes) about the company in question....Who spilled the beans?

Who spilled the beans and broke confidentiality as it pertains to "Project Fisher?"

More importantly, why do this?

The item was discussed at length yesterday and last night, and the board thoughtfully considered this item and then subsequently voted for a compromise offer to make to this potential Escambia County Employer.  It is time to move on, and hopefully we can get this company to locate here with the concomitant 35 jobs, capital improvements, and potential future growth.

But now someone (a public official or employee with intimate knowledge) has clouded the future of this entire endeavor by exposing the name of the company to someone else ( a private citizen not subject to the scrutiny of 288.075), who then subsequently posted the name of this company online, along with the flagship product this company manufactures.

The company more than likely watched the lengthy debate last night, and more than likely they'll be made aware of this breach.

I hope this does not affect this potential deal for Escambia County jobs.....but it very well might kill it. (I hope not--because the majority of the BCC supported this endeavor and we support ones that are similar to this!)

Reaching out through economic development initiatives for qualified, targeted industries helps to diversify our employer base and is a sound strategy for importing jobs and dollars into a community.

But confidentiality is crucial to this work---as cities and counties throughout the nation are in an ongoing, intense, pitched battle for these jobs, companies,  and investments.

Confidentiality is vital, and that is why the legislature created section 288.075 to delineate these confidentiality periods and to define what information is to be exempt during negotiations and for how long such information must be protected from eventual release to the public--because eventually, after the negotiations are complete, all of this information becomes a public record.  This section of Florida law also describes the penalties for violations.  Anyone that is proved to have violated this section is subject to sanctions as described in

this law.

Jeb Bush defended the process of economic development and the need for confidentiality in an op-ed a few years back that hit the salient points. Confidentiality is imperative!  from his article:

"Confidentiality is important in economic development business dealings. Most companies that participate in the QTI program need to protect sensitive corporate information, which, if made public, could significantly affect their profitability, share prices, employee morale, or result in political pressures and corporate instability. Without a confidentiality provision, most businesses would be unwilling to work with Florida, putting our communities at a competitive disadvantage."

What a shame this confidentiality was breached by an insider and information was passed to a private citizen who can do whatever they want with the information (like post it).  What a shame.  Reminds me of this scene from one of my favorite movies of all time, Glengarry, Glen Ross.  You say the wrong thing as an insider with confidential information--and bad things can happen.  You have to know the shot.


Katie L. said...

Perhaps they did this because citizens ... voters ... TAXPAYERS .... have a right to know?

Jeff Bergosh said...

Katie L. allow me to connect the dots for you one by one for your edification. You obviously did not read, or are totally ignoring, the salient part of this blog post that describes 288.075 Florida Statutes- a temporary state exemption from disclosure for information on companies involved in negotiations like those in which the County (via Florida West) is currently involved. After a period of 1 year the information becomes a public record-but until that one year has lapsed or sooner under some circumstances—information about the company is supposed to be held as confidential. When a company requests confidentiality in writing—they expect this and the statutes delineate what is confidential. With this said, whomever it was (whatever insider) gave this information to a private citizen (who subsequently published this information) knew or should have known that such a written request for confidentiality was made in this instance. It is what is called a non-disclosure agreement. On July 12, 2017 the written request was made to keep all information confidential. This company followed the process and made that request which reads, in part,
“..please accept this letter as a request for all documents, records, reports, correspondence, conversations, applications, data and other sources of information concerning our business plans, interests, or intention to evaluate or locate in Florida as well as other trade secrets, identification, account, and registration numbers, and proprietary confidential business information be held confidential pursuant to section 288.075, Florida Statutes for a period of 12 months after the date of receipt of this request for confidentiality, until the date specified in the Final Project Order..this request covers all applicable economic development agencies, including but not limited to the FloridaWestEDA, Greater Pensacola Chamber, Enterprise Florida and the Department of Economic Opportunity, The University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement, as well as all Escambia County and City of Pensacola Departments and/or Agencies”
So I hope you understand that not every piece of public information is automatically, immediately available under our laws and constitution. This is why you cannot demand an investigatory file prior to an investigation being completed, you cannot request your kids’ teacher’s evaluations until a period of time has elapsed, and you cannot get a transcript of a shade meeting until a proceeding is concluded. And there are tons of other exemptions as well---to include the one in this instance that, unfortunately, was violated by someone who should have known better. Now do you understand, Katie L?

Anonymous said...

I guess one problem is why did Barry and you know but not Underhill ahead of time? Prior to the vote. By the letter did you all know in July?

Larry Downs said...

Mr. Jeff Bergosh, what makes you think that NO ONE could figure out or make a good guess , however, it was only confirmed by your post/blog?

I mean project Fisher gave some pretty good information, two sets of codes that when you Google the type of businesses and type of management etc. comes up under Google, Plus they give you the approximate operating years that the business has been in existence .

There is other stuff in the report “project fisher” provided by Florida West.

Are you absolutely 100 percent positive NO ONE could figure out or make a guess as to the name of the company, with the given info “project fisher”, a smart phone, Google, some phone calls, etc???

Larry Downs said...

So NO ONE could have figured this out or a lucky guess, with all the information that was provided in the “project Fisher” nine page document ???

Jeff Bergosh said...

Larry Downs Jr.: I believe it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to determine the company information unless a key data point was leaked (e.g. their flagship product). I think that is the most likely explanation, far more likely than someone "guessing" correctly from literally tens of thousands of small manufacturing businesses nationwide that have these Industry and NAICS codes. But it is a moot point now, and also--you did nothing wrong by divulging the information--I don't believe you are subject to 288.075--only the insiders are. So if nobody gave you information beyond what was put out in the back up, everyone will be fine, no worries. But going forward, I would expect that data will be even less available, and 288.075 will be strictly enforced/followed locally, to prevent this sort of a breach from happening again. That is a shame.

Larry Downs said...

Difficult/lucky, nevertheless, doesn’t make it impossible. I still don’t know for sure if that is the company’s name or their business?

I hope going forward we can stop our governments from meddling/manipulating our free markets and gambling with our tax dollars!

I do like you Mr. Commissioner Jeff Bergosh, I just hope you will start to see the dangers of having such overreaching governments.

I don’t believe for one minute that you would ever trust or ask our governments to invest your personal hard earned money, and our government representatives are asking exactly that of us, which includes you my friend;)

Government should stick to the very Limited basics and get out of the Social and Economic engineering business!

Brett Whitlock said...

It seems as if the issue here for some is a dislike of the statute. If you do not like the statute then lobby and vote to change it. Personally, I like to see government follow the law (rules); we are a society of laws. I hope the person (s) who leaked this are caught and face consequences for their actions.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You really need to get the information out about economic development especially for the public who only read headlines from a member of the Bully Pulpit. The loudest voice in the room is clearly usually not the smartest. Opinions stated as facts are misleading.

Anonymous said...

Well you tried, hopefully it sunk in..