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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Purdue sued over Amazon textbook deal"

Steven Porter and Joseph Paul report today in the Lafayette Journal & Courier in a story that begins:

An Ohio-based association of campus retail stores wants more detail about a business deal struck last year between Purdue University and online retail powerhouse Amazon, which opened its first brick-and-mortar store earlier this semester on the West Lafayette campus.

Located in Krach Leadership Center, Amazon's on-campus store serves as a pickup and drop-off spot for textbooks and other merchandise students order online.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in February that preliminary numbers suggest students have saved more than 40 percent through the partnership.

The National Association of College Stores Inc. — a nonprofit trade organization representing more than 3,000 campus retail stores worldwide — requested and obtained a copy of the agreement university officials signed with Amazon, but multiple pages in the document had been redacted.

The university, which is a public agency, asserted that the materials were redacted because they constitute trade secrets under Indiana's public records law.

The association, however, disagrees, claiming in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Tippecanoe Superior Court 2 that the redacted materials constitute public records that the university must release upon request.

The story links to an earlier, Nov. 24, 2014 opinion of the Indiana Public Access Counselor that includes:
Purdue has not withheld the entire document in this case and rightfully so. Public-private contracts should be scrutinized in the light of day. However, given that contracts may contain confidential information, Indiana law allows for redaction. It may possibly be the University’s determination the information they deem as a trade secret is erroneous, but this Office cannot decide that particular issue based on the information provided.
More from today's story:
Steve Schultz, who serves as legal counsel for the university, responded to questions from the Journal & Courier in writing, citing Britt's opinion.

"We have not yet seen the complaint and, in general, do not comment on pending litigation," he wrote. "That being said, our contract with Amazon explicitly states that the contract contains information Amazon considers to be trade secret."

It would be a violation of state law for the university to divulge such secrets, Schultz added.

Schneider said he was surprised that Britt's opinion was based on a review of the redacted agreement, rather than a complete copy.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 26, 2015 01:59 PM
Posted to Indiana Government