ST. LOUIS (CN) – In a case involving the possible move of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission told a city judge that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does not have the right to see documents on the Rams’ lease of their home stadium.
At issue is a provision in the lease of the Edward Jones Dome that allows the Rams to relocate if the stadium does not meet certain requirements by March 1, 2015.
The Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC), which owns and operates the Dome, has been negotiating with the Rams over the types and costs of the improvements to the dome.
The CVC this week filed a complaint in City Court, seeking a declaratory judgment against the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Under the state’s the Sunshine Law, the newspaper requested all correspondence between the CVC and the Rams from Jan. 1-31 of this year, regarding the lease and the Rams’ counterproposal to the CVC’s original offer.
The CVC claims the Post-Dispatch published an article on Monday suggesting that the CVC is violating the Sunshine Law by failing to provide the documents and the paper has threatened the CVC with legal action if it doesn’t had over the documents.
“It is CVC’s good faith position that the requested documents are properly maintained by it as closed records under the Missouri Sunshine Law,” the complaint states. “In particular, 610.021 (2) allows a public governmental body to close records that relate to ‘[l]easing, purchase or sale of real estate by a public governmental body where public knowledge of the transaction might adversely affect the legal consideration therefore.’ Under that section, any minutes, votes or public record approving a contract relating to the leasing of real estate by a public governmental body shall be made public upon execution of the lease.”
The CVC claims that releasing the documents before a deal is done could hinder negotiations with the Rams.
“There is very real danger that public knowledge of the ongoing negotiations might adversely affect the legal consideration for any lease amendment,” the complaint states. “Various interest groups and citizens will have diverse and conflicting opinions regarding the propriety of the proposed improvements and the proposed financing of any such improvements, and they will undoubtedly attempt to put pressure on the CVC, as well as elected officials in the city and county of St. Louis and the state of Missouri, regarding the outcome of these negotiations. Disclosure of the details of the negotiations, before any contract or lease amendment is executed, might jeopardize the CVC’s ability to negotiate the most favorable contract or lease amendment and/or undermine its negotiating position with the Rams.
“CVC has no intention of shielding any eventual agreement with the Rams from public disclosure or scrutiny. Once a lease amendment has been executed or all proposals from either party are rejected, the appropriate documents will be disclosed in accordance with the Missouri Sunshine Law. CVC simply seeks the same privacy afforded private entities in order to negotiate the best arrangement it can without public pressure that might hinder the negotiations – the very purpose of the cited provisions of the Missouri Sunshine Law.”
The CVC also claims that a provision of the lease mandates that it and Rams enter into arbitration by June 15 if a resolution cannot be reached. Therefore, the requested documents relate to potential litigation involving a governmental body, which is another reason the CVC considers those documents closed.
The CVC seeks declaratory judgment that it has no obligation to provide additional documents to the Post-Dispatch under the Sunshine Law until a lease is executed. The CVC is represented by JoAnn Sandifer, with Husch Blackwell.
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