City denies newspaper request for Oriole data

September 25, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore City Auditor Allan Reynolds has denied a Maryland Public Information Act request by The Evening Sun to mak public the documents, audits and reports the city used in calculating the Orioles' rent for Memorial Stadium between June 16, 1989, and Dec. 31, 1989.

Reynolds refused to grant the request based on a section of the state law that allows denial of inspection of records based on "confidential commercial information" and "confidential financial information." Reynolds said the Orioles' rental payment documents contain confidential information about such matters as "the Orioles' revenues, expenditures, business activities, cash flow, profitability, employee compensation."

Evening Sun editors were considering whether to appeal the decision.

Since 1982, the city has released the revenue information it used to calculate the rental payment of the Orioles, a payment determined by a unique lease agreement that links the annual rent to team profits.

But the group that bought the Orioles in December 1988 has asked the city not to release the revenue information this year. Reynolds said last week that the new owners, who include New York investment banker Eli S. Jacobs and Oriole president Larry Lucchino, have threatened to sue the city for damages if the financial information is made public. Reynolds said Lucchino warned that public release of the documents would place the team at a competitive disadvantage with other Major League Baseball teams.

"The city has been apprised that the release of this information would severely impair the city's ability to obtain this type of information in the future," Reynolds said in a letter to Evenin Sun Managing Editor John M. Lemmon.

Reynolds did release the stadium rent the Orioles paid for the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 1989. The amount, agreed to by the city's auditors and examiners for the Orioles, was $2.6 million.

The team has signed a 15-year lease agreement with the Maryland Stadium Authority for the new Camden Yards stadium, scheduled to open in 1992. The new lease agreement has the same unique rent formula.

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