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Some North Iowans not happy with secrecy in Clear Lake development



This news story was published on March 11, 2014.
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NIT – A number of North Iowans have expressed concern with the secrecy of public officials in refusing to name a company that agreed yesterday to a major development in Clear Lake.

The name of the company will not be disclosed for up to 18 months, officials have said, as construction of the $65 million dollar warehousing operation is undertaken, beginning this spring.

North Iowa Corridor Director Brent Willett. What is there left to hide?

North Iowa Corridor Director Brent Willett.
What is there left to hide?

Only a handful of North Iowa public officials have admitted that they know the identity of the company, including Clear Lake Mayor Nelson Crabb, City Administrator Scott Flory, Cerro Gordo County Supervisor Jay Urdahl and County Administrator Tom Drzycimski, as well as Brent Willett of the North Iowa Corridor.

The City of Clear Lake and Cerro Gordo County are allocating millions in loans and tax breaks to the un-named Fortune 100 outfit.

NorthIowaToday.com has fielded a number of calls and emails from concerned citizens, asking why the name of the company cannot be made public.

Officials in Clear Lake and at the courthouse have said that disclosing the name of the company could jeopardize the outcome of the company’s site selection, which came down to Austin, MN and Clear Lake.

Today, some are asking “Why not name the company now?”

A person who owns land in the vicinity of the proposed development in Clear Lake’s industrial park may take the issue to Des Moines and seek release of records, citing public information and sunshine laws.

“My question how can I go about finding out who this company is that is getting millions in tax breaks,” the North Iowa resident asked. “How can a office holder vote to offer these breaks and not even know they are going to?”

A representative of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council at Drake University told the resident as he sought advice that it is “outrageous” that the name of the company is still being withheld:

Good grief. There is no discussion of why this company wants to remain anonymous or the propriety of approving such a large development deal, including forgivable loans, without naming the company that will benefit from this public largesse.

Any documents in the possession of a government official or government body or office are public records, unless they fall under an exception either in the Iowa Code or some other federal or state law. This includes emails in which government officials discuss the deal. You can file a public records request with the government body or official who holds the records you seek. (See www.ifoic.org for an example of a records request letter, though the request can be in any form.) If the record custodian wants to withhold the information, he or she must cite a specific area of the Code that allows confidentiality. (I’m not sure if the North Iowa Corridor EDC would be considered a government body for purposes of the law, but the city and county certainly would, as well as the government officials mentioned.)

This also sounds like something that Lee Rood, a reporter with the Des Moines Register who specializes in freedom of information issues as the “reader’s watchdog,” might be interested in pursuing. It seems pretty outrageous.

NIT will continue to follow these developments.

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47 Responses to Some North Iowans not happy with secrecy in Clear Lake development

  1. Jerimiah@gmail.com Reply Report comment

    March 15, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Wow. can’t believe all the commentary. We are talking aFortune 100 company plus 164 jobs. How many readers have ever owned a business and employed 164 peope at $39’ooo a year. how many ever made$39,000 a year. You would make Max damn happy with all this crap commentary.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      What has Max got to do with any of this. Stay on subject and pay your subscription.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      @ Jerimiah@gmail.com: You’re off-topic, and add nothing at all to this discussion. No substance. Really, can’t you do any better than that? Let’s engage is a real debate if you have it in you.

  2. smilly Reply Report comment

    March 13, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Wallmart! average wage 39,000 ?????

  3. anon Reply Report comment

    March 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Simple question, if they had told the name, and the company then did not come and bring the new jobs, how many people here would be carping about how they ran the jobs off?

  4. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    It’s a shame these folks have sold their soles to a fortune five hundred company who has tied their hands from any further competition for two years and tied down the labor force at same time!!! I would think the better way for all of us would be that you let everyone know, hey so and so in the fortune 100 or 500 clubs coming to the area and maybe your company should look this way also. What a great advertising tool!!! To bad it’s lost in the great deal Willet has set up!!!

  5. ElNorte Reply Report comment

    March 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Now that the deal has supposedly been “inked” further secrecy only makes it look shady.

  6. servantez55 Reply Report comment

    March 12, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I heard its Amazon.

  7. j.herr Reply Report comment

    March 12, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Shell company of Walmart just happen to be from Arkansas any dummy can figure this out.Can you say Walmart Dist.They love to build in non union state go figure.A great company that gutted every small town in Iowa about time to give back.

  8. JB Johnson Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    In the GG story it named the 3 local banks who have loaned them money. It also said this “Only five people know the identity of the company: Willett, Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory, Clear Lake Mayor Nelson Crabb, Cerro Gordo County Supervisor Jay Urdahl and Tom Drzycimski, the county’s zoning administrator.

    Ask your self this. Would the banks loan to a unnamed company? If the bank know and is going to make money off the deal why not the taxpayers who are on the hook for the…

    • Rummy Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      My thoughts exactly. If the banks know, how soon before the word leaks out. How confidential is that, really? The banks can know but not the people. Thats the world we now live in.

      • Rummy Reply Report comment

        March 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

        By the way whoever runs this site Im a little tired of my comments getting deleted. I paid the $24 now let me say my peice.

        • Tonsafun Reply Report comment

          March 11, 2014 at 9:48 pm

          Matt deleted your comment because you made fun of my weight. And I don’t need that. Thank you.

          • bodacious

            March 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm

            I believe you are correct Tonsafun. I don’t want to see this site turn into another NI Mugshots where people-bashing is all they do. If you don’t like not being able to make fun of people Rummy, find another site to plant your shit-tree. Same with you Cretin Hall

  9. Ananymous Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Another reason for locating here and not Austin is Minnesota is a closed shop state while Iowa is not. If your looking to avoid union labor Iowa was the logical answer. I think while we are happy at the thought of new jobs were a little uneasy with the secrecy on this issue.

  10. Jesse D. Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Try OPERATION CATAPULT by FACEBOOK. Facebook has a 3 phase plan to build 3 350,000 to 380,000 sq. foot centers in Iowa. First one has been built in Altoona, second one is probably what everyone is going crazy over- Clear Lake, Iowa!

  11. DJW Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Google “windmill realty walmart”

    • Bobby G Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      Somebody at the lake told my wife it is Wal-mart.

  12. DJW Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Do publicly elected officials have the right to withold information from their constituents and using money derived from tax payer dollars and used for economic development or whatever is that above the freedom of information act. If it is so secretive it might be something people might have concern about. Example: A Arkansas based company that has a bad track record. Maybe call someone from Austin, mn

  13. Mediator Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    The company name is public record, Windmill Realty, LLC. The problem is that the company is basically a shell corporation which has the ability to keep secret what they intend to do with their building down the road. The city and county made a deal with Windmill Realty, LLC, with stipulations concerning jobs and building sizes, etc.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      This is true ^^^

    • Philosophus Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Oh, so the city and county loaned over 2 million dollars to a shell company. Great. We should all feel so much better now. (taste the sarcasm).

    • Maybe Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      I know I replied to peters comment here and I know that I didn’t say anything bad about him but it is gone, deleted.

  14. USMCSSG Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Who gives a hoot what the name of this place is. lets just get it built and then bring in others and who really gives a shit if its in Clear Lake or Mumified City. Mason City is just about dead. If we ever lose Curries/Grahm/Kraft MC well be in a whirl of shit.

  15. John Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    I wish our city leaders would do their jobs, that they are well paid for and bring in industry like this. But they are more worried about spending money on sculptures like the “ridiculous dice” in Our Central Park. Why didn’t Mason City have a shot at this development. We lost out AGAIN!!!

    • Tonsafun Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I just want a job there!!

      • Cretin Hall Reply Report comment

        March 11, 2014 at 9:23 pm

        They won’t hire you, the insurance would cost too much and the vending machines would always be empty.

  16. Philosophus Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Excellent Work Matt. Spot on. I hope the landowner and others file under freedom of information act to force the city to reveal the name. I am willing to assist anyone who asks me.

  17. JB Johnson Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I am proudly the one filing a Freedom of Information request and have sent copies of these stories to both the Office of Ombudsman and Iowa Attorney General. I plan on using the force of the law the same way it is used on the general public

    John B Johnson
    Britt.

    • Philosophus Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Awesome Mr. Johnson! Absolutely agree with you. Glad to see someone is taking the city to task on this! I hope you keep us updated. I’m willing to engage in protests if you organize any. I live in Clear Lake.

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm

        Somebody said that the reason it is a secret right now could be that there are 2 other places right now that have to be closed first before they can move here. There is good and bad is pushing for the release of information. The good could be to see if it is a good business or a bad one, the con could be that once the information is leaked out and it is a good business they could decide not to come to clear lake. You could be opening a can of worms here.

        • Rummy Reply Report comment

          March 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          So in other words, our public officials need to with-hold info in order to let “the company” lie to and lead-on its current employees, till they can shitcan them? What would Jesus do?

        • Philosophus Reply Report comment

          March 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm

          The company isn’t going to base their decision not to come based on a few citizens being pissed off. The issue is between the citizens and the council. Secrecy isn’t an option when it comes to American Democracy. You don’t allocate 2 million plus dollars in tax payer money and not inform the public what’s coming in. This style of governance is wrong.

  18. LVS Reply Report comment

    March 11, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    It is strange that they refuse to name the company. I do not believe I have ever heard of that before. You have to ask, what are they hiding? What kind of company is going in there? Is it the type of company you want in your community? If tax money is being used (and it is) then I think people have a right to ask what it is going for. No one wants to trust Willett.

    • Buzz Crumcutter Reply Report comment

      March 11, 2014 at 6:58 pm

      In some respects the councils hands may have been tied. They probably weighed the pros and cons of making a deal with this “unnamed” company for the time being. I know some will not agree, but remember, WE are the ones who elect these people (in this case the city council) to represent us. We entrust and empower them to act on our behalf. What kind of a sh*t-storm would they have faced if they backed out on this deal only because they wanted to name the unnamed company?

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        Right, what he said.

      • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

        March 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm

        This is also true.

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 11, 2014 at 8:04 pm

        Complaining or protesting could end up losing everything. If they could they would have said who it was. Go ahead you guys, who cares if more jobs come to town. You thought the loud pipes was ruining your life peter?

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 12, 2014 at 9:55 am

          @Maybe-O.K., I can agree with you but, I think the council could give the public some assurances without telling the company’s name. Them just saying everything is good doesn’t cut it. Possibly my feelings are just due to living in Mason City with the liars we have in our government. Hard to trust people after dealing with that.

          • Mediator

            March 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm

            Here are the assurances I’ve heard so far:

            The most senior elected officials have been told and they support it.
            The company is a Fortune 100 company.
            The company is community friendly.
            The project meets all zoning requirements and no additional infrastructure will be needed.
            The increase in the tax base will be rebated up to 90% (so we’ll be getting 10% more than before).
            The loans are forgivable but have restrictions.
            What more do you want for assurances?

          • Philosophus

            March 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm

            Percentage of Chinese goods?

          • LVS

            March 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm

            @Mediator-Good comments. Thank you, except for the snarky comment at the end.

          • Mediator

            March 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

            It wasn’t intended to be snarky. You stated you wanted more assurances, I laid them out and asked what more you wanted.

            If you see that as me being snarky, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to communicate with you. I’m sorry.

          • Maybe

            March 12, 2014 at 5:37 pm

            peter has this thing for the Chinese, I think he’s turning Japanese I think he’s turning Japanese I really think so.

          • LVS

            March 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm

            @Mediator-sorry, I get a little touchy sometimes.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 12, 2014 at 9:51 am

        @Buzz-Good points.