Allentown, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) has issued a determination compelling the City of Allentown to make public critical details of the bidding process in its controversial plan to lease the city’s water and sewer systems. Food & Water Watch, the consumer group that filed the Right-to-Know appeal with the state, is calling on the Allentown City Council to refrain from voting on the plan before the facts of the bidding process are finally brought to light by Mayor Pawlowski’s administration.
The determination by OOR compels the city to make public the responses to its Request for Qualifications, which provides background information about the Lehigh County Authority and the other bidders. Although the OOR is currently reconsidering its original determination at the request of the City of Allentown, Food & Water Watch believes the substance of the determination will be upheld. The original determination can be viewed here.
Advocates and elected officials are now calling on the Allentown City Council to refrain from any further consideration of Mayor Pawlowski’s lease plan before the city has fully complied with the OOR determination and given the public ample opportunity to review the details about the bidders that have until now been hidden.
“It’s a real shame that the people of Allentown have been forced to rely on consumer advocates and lawyers in Harrisburg to get the facts on a water and sewer plan that would directly impact every single one of them for decades to come,” said Sam Bernhardt, statewide organizer with Food & Water Watch, the consumer group that filed the Right-to-Know appeal. “Since Mayor Pawlowski won’t stand up for the rights of the people of Allentown, it’s all the more critical that the city council does.”
“I am gratified that Food & Water Watch has been granted a decision in their favor – and the citizens of Allentown’s favor – that the city must hand over all information pursuant to the final determination,” said Allentown City Councilwoman Jeanette Eichenwald. “This process has been far from transparent and this decision will aid in informing the citizens about the lease plan. I urge my fellow councilmembers to await the release of this information before making a fateful decision to grant the lease of our water and sewer to LCA.”
“Good government requires transparency. The LCA refuses to publicly discuss the details supporting their $220 million bid, and the City of Allentown has refused to release information throughout this entire process. I commend Food & Water Watch for their efforts to bring transparency to this process,” said Lehigh County Commissioner Vic Mazziotti. “No responsible public office would vote on this matter until the details, which the City of Allentown had refused to release, have had a public airing.”
Contact: Seth Gladstone – 718.943.8063, sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org