The city of Philadelphia has decided to bar reporters from an investors' conference to be held later this week, drawing objections from several news media organizations that say the event should be open to public scrutiny.
City officials are hosting the conference on Thursday and Friday to try to convince investors that Philadelphia's municipal bonds are a good bet. Presenters will include city officials as well as business and civic leaders.
The Associated Press, Bloomberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press protested the city's decision to keep media away, asking Mayor Michael Nutt to reconsider.
"Your decision to have this discussion hidden from public view perpetuates distrust and cynicism among not only among voters and the taxpaying public, but distrust of the City by investors in infrastructure, bonds and other aspects of public finance,'' said the media outlets' April 4 letter, drafted by Bloomberg attorney Charles Glasser Jr.
The mayor's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said Monday that the administration already discloses "reams of financial information'' to the public. He said the two-day meeting is geared toward investment professionals and that it would not be appropriate to allow the media to cover it.
"The Nutter administration believes in transparent government. but that doesn't mean every single meeting and every single document can or should be made public,'' McDonald said.
In the case of the investors' conference, he said, "its intention is to serve the community that is coming together for the meeting, and that would not be as well-served, we believe, by having a public event.''
Kim de Bourbon, executive director of the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition, said the public is entitled to know how officials are portraying the health of the city's finances.
"I understand it might have a so-called chilling effect, but that's too bad. It's not their money, it's the public's money,'' she said.
McDonald said city officials will be made available afterward to answer questions.