Judge: Davenport's failure to produce some casino records from contractor is 'excusable'

Associated Press

Davenport's failure to release records related to a now-abandoned plan to buy a casino is "excusable" because the city couldn't get them from an uncooperative contractor, a judge has ruled.

Deloitte & Touche LLP refused to give the city its internal documents related to its investigation of the casino purchase, despite requests from Mayor Bill Gluba and others, District Judge Stuart Werling ruled. Therefore, the city made a "good faith effort" to comply with a request seeking the documents and did not violate the open records law, he ruled.

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The city also released a large amount of other material in response to records requests, and the documents that were withheld by Deloitte didn't shed much light on the 2012 deal, Werling wrote in a 14-page ruling Friday.

"The failure to produce a few records, one of which is so heavily redacted as to be useless in providing the public with meaningful information as to the city's decision making processes, is excusable where the failure to produce is founded upon the city's good faith efforts to obtain and produce the requested documents," he wrote.

The city hired Deloitte to investigate the Rhythm City Casino's finances in 2012 to determine whether a proposed $46 million purchase price was fair. The city paid $387,500 for Deloitte's services. As a contractor, its work was subject to the open records law.

Critics of the purchase filed an open records request seeking all Deloitte paperwork related to the matter, and eventually a lawsuit after certain documents weren't produced that they believe existed. During the case, the plaintiffs used a subpoena to obtain additional Deloitte records, including its lengthy but heavily-redacted work product about the casino's finances and some email communications.

Werling ruled that some emails weren't transmitted to the city's records custodian as a result of an "administrative oversight" by outside counsel. Deloitte's records, meanwhile, never went to the city because the company argued that its investigation wasn't complete and it would be "unethical and potentially misleading" to divulge the information then, he noted.

Plaintiffs' attorney Michael Meloy told the Quad-City Times (http://bit.ly/1E9HOKe ) he would appeal, arguing Werling erred in applying the law.

"Iowa law and case precedent are on our side," he said.

Gluba said defending against the lawsuit, which included a February trial, has cost the city $127,000 in attorneys' fees. He said he is a firm believer in government transparency and is gratified the judge found no wrongdoing by the city.

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Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com