For more than a year now, county leaders have negotiated in private to secure Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. as the one-and-only overseer of the planned Med Mart/convention center facilities for Cleveland. Since then, the media has tried to get a grasp on the billion-dollar deal — about $600 million of which will go to MMPI for construction, rent, management and upkeep — only to be told: piss off.

The Plain Dealer threatened to sued and just worked out a deal last week to have the development contract and all draft proposals in their hands at least a week before commissioners finally seal the deal in blood. But that’s not good enough for some. Brian Bardwell, a Strongsville-based journalist and executive director of Citizens For Sunshine, filed suit against commissioners last Friday to make the material available to all.

“These guys are playing around with millions of dollars and it’s not okay to say, ‘We’re going to hide these records until a week before we vote on this.’ When the entire county government looks like it’s ready to start operating out of the county jail, I’m not willing to trust them anymore.”

He realizes that the records may be released this week, before the county would even have to respond to his suit, “but, under the law, this is the best we can do.”

Bardwell says his budding organization plans to keep shining light on the dark recesses of the public record — from police records in Twinsburg to billion-dollar tax give-aways. “We have to make sure to enforce this law on a small scale if we expect it to be enforced when something big comes up.”

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has the Sunshine Laws posted here: Oh, you’ll be tested. — Dan Harkins

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