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PROCESS STAYS SECRET

Not knowing the names of companies seeking public tax incentives is fine with a majority of the Pinellas County Commission.

Commissioners Calvin Harris, Susan Latvala, John Morroni and Ken Welch decided to keep that current policy in place, allowing companies to keep their identities secret from commission members when the board votes whether to provide tax incentives for relocations or expansions. Only economic development staffers know.

In the spring, Commissioner Karen Seel voted against approving incentives to a company without knowing its name. The company ended up in St. Petersburg.

But other commissioners worried over facing lawsuits or prosecution for disclosing secrets protected by state law. The protections happen to provide another benefit, economic development chief Mike Meidel said.

"It takes the pressure off you from the press. You can't disclose what you don't know," he said.

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