UPDATED with statements from Kisber, Farr, Coleman
UPDATED 3/3: In a conversation with NashvillePost.com Wednesday morning, Larry Coleman said he and his attorney are preparing their appeal "as we speak." He feels good about yesterday's decision and his chances of winning an appeal, he said, because the court found in his favor on two out of three arguments for keeping the documents sealed.
"You've got a situation where neither Farr or Kisber wanted anything out. We managed to pry a few things out, and we plan to get the rest of them," Coleman said. "The excuses they've been using are not valid and we don't think this last one will be, either."
As originally reported:
Larry Coleman, and everyone else, will have to wait five years to get a peek at TNInvestco program documents.
Chancellor Russell T. Perkins issued a memorandum opinion Tuesday denying Coleman’s petition seeking the release of the scoring matrices that ranked the 25 applicants for the economic development program and related documents showing when each TNInvestco secured required insurance company commitments.
Coleman, managing partner of venture capital firm Coleman Swenson Booth and among the TNInvestco applicants that didn't make the program's finalist ranks, wanted Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matthew Kisber and Department of Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr to release the information under the Tennessee Public Records Act.
After reviewing the documents in question, Perkins wrote that "the Court agrees with Respondents that the records could reasonably be characterized as sensitive documents that 'disclosure or release would seriously harm the ability of the state to compete or conclude agreements on contracts for economic or community development.'... The Court, therefore, declines to second-guess Commissioner Kisber's decision not to release (or redact) these records at this time."
The documents will remain sealed for a period of five years.
The court did, however, deny the commissioners' argument that the TNInvestco documents qualified as confidential under certain tax statutes, and it declined to apply the deliberative process privilege to keeping the documents sealed because there's no Tennessee appellate decision applying the privilege to preventing public records disclosure.
Coleman was not immediately available for comment Tuesday. He told NashvillePost.com in January that he'd been asking the state for the documents since October and, though he thinks the program is a good idea overall, he wanted to "get some transparency."
Kisber and Farr issued statements in a joint press release Tuesday afternoon saying they're pleased with the court's decision.
Farr's statement read in part: "The legislature understood that for the TNInvestco program to be successful, it would be necessary to give the commissioners of Revenue and ECD appropriate discretion in choosing the applicants, while putting in place strong reporting and oversight procedures and protecting proprietary strategies of the individual TNInvestcos and the confidential taxpayer information of the insurance companies."
More background on the TNInvestco program is available at this link.