EAGLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – In part one of our investigative series exposing the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) binding the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Eagle Township, we detailed how the township was obligated to maintain strict confidentiality about collaborative projects, shielding crucial details from the public and the communities affected by the proposed developments.

However, even more disconcerting than the secrecy surrounding the MEDC development deal is a clause in the NDA preventing any discussion about the mere existence of the NDA itself.

Taxpayers kept in the dark about the megasites and the existence of the NDA.

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The NDA stipulates, “the Advisor will use his/her best efforts to keep confidential the fact that Confidential Exempt Information for any applicable Development Project has been made available to the Advisor.”

This extends to discussions about a project with a company, the company’s identity, project terms, conditions, or any related facts. If compelled by law to disclose such information, the MEDC mandates prior notice.

Little information can be released without consent of project partners.

Information that can be publicly disclosed about the collaborative project is limited to what is already in the public domain, non-confidential data, information approved for release by MEDC or the represented company, or information mandated by a court.

The NDA further directs the Advisor (former Twp. Supervisor Patti Schafer and the Township, having separate but identical agreements) to destroy any confidential information upon written request from the MEDC. However, they can retain their own analyses and compiled information, provided it remains confidential.

More than a decade of secrets will be kept under wraps.

The NDA also has an extended duration, stating, “The agreement shall continue to be effective until the tenth year anniversary of the Effective Date; provided, however, that the Advisor’s confidentiality obligations with respect to the Confidential Exemption Information and the items listed in Section 2 of this Agreement shall survive for an addition three (3) years following the expiration of this Agreement.”

A new guard in Eagle Twp rescinds the NDA.

A publicly disclosed letter from Terry L. Fitzpatrick, Executive Vice President, Chief Real Estate and Global Attraction Officer for MEDC, has been uncovered concerning their reaction to the township cancelling the NDA.

The letter starts out by congratulating new Township Supervisor Troy Stroud on his recent election victory and notes “strong public support” for the MMIC project in Eagle Township (even though there has been strong pushback against it.)

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The letter also notes that they are aware that the township rescinded the NDA on November 16, 2023. Fitzpatrick points out that the NDA does not permit “unilateral termination.”

An unwelcomed agreement is offered to the township.

Fitzpatrick goes on to say, “we are agreeable to terminating the agreement and releasing the Township from their obligations going forward to respect the wishes of the board” and she includes a termination agreement with the letter.

However, it says that while they are terminating the NDA moving forward, it keeps in place the obligations the township may have to confidential information already provided through the term of the current NDA.

What does the MEDC think the township will sue them for?

The new agreement also says the township can’t sue anyone, stating “Advisor releases, discharges and holds harmless the MEDC, its Executive Committee, the State of Michigan, the Michigan Strategic Fund, and each of the aforementioned entities’ respective directors, participants, officers, agents and employees from any and all claims, demands, rights, charges and causes of action, including, but not limited to, claims in law or in equity, concerning or relating to the Confidentiality Agreement.”

Stroud says this new termination agreement has NOT been signed by anyone in the township. And it doesn’t sound like it will be.

State of Michigan allows for NDAs and it appears they will continue to allow them even when FOIA legislation is up for debate in February.

 Unfortunately for the taxpayers of the state, it looks like the practice of governments signing NDAs will continue. Even though the Michigan legislature is looking into voting on an open records bill in February that, according to the Detroit News, would force the Legislature and governor’s office to comply with FOIA, it would still exempt many things including NDAs.

The language says that exempted material includes “trade secrets or commercial or financial information voluntarily provided to an agency or a state legislative public body” and information submitted “upon a promise of confidentiality by the public body.”

Critics speak out against NDAs.

There are those speaking out against the practice of using NDAs though. Former Ambassador Joseph Cella who is director of the Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group was contacted by Michigan News Source about these shadowy NDAs that are being used to develop Michigan megasites including the Eagle Twp MMIC, Gotion, CATL and others.

Cella said, “This entire dynamic surrounding the MEDC’s NDAs with their ‘deals’ is corrupted from head to tail – from secret meetings and bizarre code names, to apparent missing documents and the so-called ‘confidential exempt information’ in the NDAs. Such behavior by government and business elites ruptures the civic order. It is reckless and destructive. It is an act of the government setting up a parallel body of quasi-government  unaccountable to the taxpayers. It should also be looked into whether any such gatherings involving these ‘deals’ constitute violations of the Open Meetings Act.”

Cella continued, “It is outrageous that citizens were denied the ability to receive answers from the elected officials they put into office on account of the corrupted nature of these NDAs. And it is shocking that elected officials not covered by the NDAs were unable to have their questions from their fellow elected officials who were covered by the NDAs.”

Cella went on to say, “Fortunately, intrepid citizens are ahead of these elites, and they held them to account through a recall election. Citizens across the State of Michigan are watching this precedent very closely, in hopes of derailing similar dealings in the future, and may hold to account any elected official who signed those NDAs in this year’s election.”

A township, county and state robbed of representation.

 Stroud says about the MEDC’s NDA with his township, “It has literally robbed my township of their right of representation. They took away communication between a sitting supervisor and a board because the board was terrified to even talk about it, any of it, let alone what the NDA actually said. And the supervisor, at that point, was actually working with LEAP and MEDC to make this factory happen that she wasn’t telling my Township about. We lost our representation.”

He continued, “Not only that, they signed our senator, our state Rep., MDOT…literally multiple departments within our state government, we lost ALL representation. They just started doing what they wanted. It became rule by bureaucrats. And they were going to put it in if they had found a buyer, if Micron (Project Copper) wouldn’t have gone to New York, they would have done it in spite of us.”

The Micron deal that Stroud is referencing was the first project that the Eagle Twp. megasite collaborators worked on together, a $100 billion semiconductor investment that the governor spent 15 months trying to pull together. It’s still unknown how much in taxpayer dollars were offered to the company to entice them to locate in Eagle Township.

Look for Part 3 in this series in the coming week as we delve into emailed communications about the Eagle Twp. development project.