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Goldwater Institute: Public Has a Right to Know About Incentives Deal With Apple

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The Goldwater Institute is pressing agencies for details of the "incentives" deal used to lure Apple to open a manufacturing facility in Mesa.

In a press release, the Goldwater Institute says media reports indicate people from the "Arizona Commerce Authority, the City of Mesa, and Maricopa County have signed confidentiality agreements to hide the content of their meetings with Apple Corporation as they worked to attract the tech giant to open operations in the area."

See also:
-Apple to Open Manufacturing Facility in Mesa
-What Apple Might Be Making in Its New Mesa Facility (Video)

The conservative think-tank notes that "attempts by public officials to hide information about how taxpayer dollars are being spent raises serious legal questions, especially in light of Arizona's broad public records laws requiring open and transparent government."

A spokeswoman from the governor's office told New Times earlier this week that a deal hasn't been finalized, and the details won't be available until after the contract is signed.

The Goldwater Institute claims that's not good enough:

While the law allows for secret negotiations, it is clear the public has a legal right to know the details of any agreements before the deals are approved. In the case of the Apple deal, public officials are taking secrecy to new levels, not just being evasive about the terms and incentives of the deal, but also the terms of the confidentiality agreements they've signed in their public capacities.

The Goldwater Institute has filed public records requests of its own to gain information from the Arizona Commerce Authority, the City of Mesa, and Maricopa County, about the details surrounding the Apple deal. While none of the public bodies have yet responded to the requests, the Goldwater Institute intends to pursue the records requests to the fullest extent--including through the courts, if necessary.

This package for Apple could potentially be worth millions of dollars. Consider this: Last year, Arizona reportedly was in the running for a facility that advertised 3,600 Apple jobs. Austin snagged Apple with a $21 million tax-incentive package assembled by the state.

The think-tank's press release also cites an unnamed state lawmaker who "bemoaned that transparency and open meeting laws had severely undermined her district's ability to seal 'economic development' deals, because businesses being courted did not want to have to disclose information about their dealings in exchange for taxpayer-funded incentives."

"The law is clear - government cannot hide the decisions it is making on behalf of the public," Goldwater Institute staff attorney Jon Riches says in a statement.

Governor Jan Brewer announced the news of the plant earlier this week, saying the facility will produce 700 jobs in its first year.

Apple is giving a company called GT Advanced Technologies a $578 million prepayment to make "sapphire material" for Apple at the plant. "Sapphire material" already is used to make iPhones, although technology writers have suggested that the product is going to be incorporated more in future versions of the phone.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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