The Beaver County Board of Commissioners has filed a petition in the Court of Common Pleas against the Beaver County Times and reporter JD Prose, in an effort to keep documents related to the sale of Friendship Ridge shielded from public view.
The County is asking a local judge to overturn a decision in favor of the Times by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
On August 12th, Times Staff Reporter JD Prose filed an Open Records Request with the county for “bids submitted to the County from the five entities that were interested in purchasing the Friendship Ridge Nursing Home.” One week later, the county issued a denial of that request, saying the documents fell into exemptions of the law because they contained “confidential proprietary information,” and they related to “the disposal of real property.”
JD Prose appealed the County’s decision on August 22nd to the Office of Open Records (OOR). That appeal was granted on September 18th, with the agency making a final determination that the county failed to provide credible evidence the records were legally exempted from public disclosure.
That decision led County Commissioners to file a lawsuit in the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas on Friday, asking a judge for permission to keep the documents from the Times and the taxpaying public.
“Said Final Determination requires the County to prematurely provide the proposals received by the various offerors for the sale of Friendship Ridge, thereby compromising the integrity of the process, and in direct contravention of the [Right To Know Law],” wrote Assistant County Solicitor Andrea Cantelmi in the appeal.
County Commissioners announced they had chosen a buyer for Friendship Ridge two months ago, but a sales agreement still has not been signed. The announcement by the County turned into a public relations disaster after it was revealed the company they named as the buyer, Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC, was nonexistent. County Solicitor Joseph Askar said the men who were purchasing the facility, whom the County would not identify, were in the process of setting up a shell company that would make the acquisition.
Commissioners Amadio, Spanik, and Nichols have said they won’t be releasing any details to the public about the bidders, the bid amounts, or the final buyers, until a sales agreement has been signed.
A hearing date has not yet been set in the case.