A Marion Superior Court judge has ordered the governor’s office to turn over emails and documents related to efforts by former Gov. Mike Pence, President-elect Donald Trump and Carrier Corp. to save jobs at the local factory.
The order by Judge Heather Welch says Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration violated the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) by failing to turn over the communications to Citizens Action Coalition in a timely way. The emails and related documents center on efforts to prevent Carrier from outsourcing jobs to Mexico.
In June 2017, CAC sued the Holcomb administration to gain access to the communications after waiting for months for a response to its initial records request.
CAC, a non-profit that advocates on issues ranging from energy policy to health care, had sought the records in late 2016.
Specifically, CAC sought documents reflecting communications between Pence’s office, Trump’s campaign organization and his business, and Carrier and its related parent companies from Nov. 14-29, 2016.
Kerwin Olson, executive director of the CAC, said that the CAC is more interested in the documents now than they were two years ago.
“However, it sure feels like they have something to hide,” Olson said in a statement. “So we’re probably more interested now than we were when we first asked.”
The court ruled largely in favor of the CAC stating the three and half months of delay by the governor’s office in which the office only responded with a request for clarification, constituted an undue delay in violation of the APRA. The update only came after CAC requested updates more than once, the court noted.
“While the Court is sympathetic to the duties involved with the transition period and the legislative period, the 3.5-month period without any response or status update appears to be contrary to the purposes of APRA,” Welch wrote, referring to the months as Holcomb and his team were settling into the governor’s office. Holcomb was elected in 2016.
The court also ruled that of the four APRA requests from CAC, the court gave the governor’s office 30 days to provide public records related to two of the requests. The other two were not specific enough so the CAC and the governor’s office will have to negotiate to narrow it.
The request for the documents followed the flurry of negotiations to save Hoosier jobs when Carrier, a heating and air-conditioning company in Indianapolis, announced it would move thousands of jobs to Mexico.
After the 2016 election, Trump and Pence made a deal with Carrier to keep the plant open for 10 years and employ 1,100 workers at the Indianapolis plant in exchange for tax breaks.
“We weren’t looking for anything in particular, beyond evidence that what was being promised was real,” said Olson. “It was odd and weird at the time. It just didn’t smell right.”
James Polston is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.