ID of Companies that Reportedly Want Memphis Corporate Welfare May Soon be Kept Secret

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Memphis taxpayers may soon know less about the companies that want corporate welfare in exchange for expanding or relocating their business to Memphis, according to The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

This, the paper went on to say, depends on a pending opinion from the state attorney general and how he interprets Tennessee’s open records law, the paper went on to say.

That pending opinion will weigh in on whether Memphis officials can keep hidden three pieces of information from the public — the name of the company applying for an incentive, its parent company, and its address.

EDGE board members, of course, will know who the company is, the paper reported.

“Instead, a ‘code name’ would be used to identify the company,” The Commercial Appeal said.

“Other information such as the industry, the number of jobs the company plans to create and the average pay of each job would still be released when it is provided to the board.”

Mark Beutelschies, legal counsel for EDGE, told the paper EDGE board members will still need all the information to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.

“We want to get an explicit understanding from the state that if we held these three pieces of data that it would not violate the open records,” Beutelschies said to the paper.

“We need to get a better understanding because the statute is not clear.”

The statute, the paper went on to say, requires the board reveal information ‘in a manner that would adequately notify and fairly inform the public.’

“It does not say specifically what information must be released,” according to The Commercial Appeal.

As The Tennessee Star reported, EDGE is an unelected board of 11 people who have enough power to grant millions of dollars in tax abatements to corporations.

Under the current system, the EDGE CEO is accountable only to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

Both mayors appoint the EDGE board of directors, although county commissioners and city council members vote to confirm them.

Otherwise, county commissioners and city council members have no sway over their respective mayors.

As The Tennessee Watchdog reported, EDGE previously gave $9.5 million in tax incentives to bring IKEA to Memphis.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Lee Harris” by shelbycountytn.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

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