CINCINNATI - The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that a popular public market in Cincinnati doesn't have to reveal how much its vendors pay for rent.
In a 7-0 ruling Wednesday, the court found that vendor rents at Findlay Market are a trade secret and revealing them would put the market at a competitive disadvantage with other property managers.
The ruling stems from an appeal of a lawsuit filed by Kevin Luken, a Cincinnati attorney and the brother of Mike Luken, proprietor of Luken's Poultry, Fish & Seafood, a longtime vendor at the market.
The businessman had sought lease agreements at the market in a public records request with the city, but rental amounts were blacked out in the city's response. The market facility is owned by the city of Cincinnati and managed by the nonprofit Corporation for Findlay Market.
Luken told WCPO Digital that he sought the records for the sake of accountability. He wanted to see if he was being charged the same rent as his competitors in the historic market, he said.
"The only thing we asked for was information," Luken said. "The only thing we're doing is making sure the corporation is following city guidelines. If everything was the same, why would they have fought the lawsuit?"
The corporation fought the lawsuit "vigorously" to protect its ability to engage in economic development activity, said Joe Hansbauer, president and CEO of the nonprofit Corporation for Findlay Market.
"The ability of a nonprofit like the Corporation for Findlay Market to engage in economic development activity requires the same ability to maintain trade secrets as any for-profit corporation would have," Hansbauer said.
He said the corporation works hard to collaborate with the market's vendors, but it has to maintain some trade secrets to be successful.
"The ruling provides protections for nonprofits engaged in economic development activity," he said. "This would have had significant impact to any community development corporation in Ohio."
To read the entirety of the court's decision, please view the file provided below: