Remember those $1.3 million in public relations contracts the L.A. Harbor Commission approved to promote clean air efforts at the port?
Well, with the prudence of King Solomon, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — released while he’s on his faraway hideaway vacation — found a way to split the baby.
He wrote (here’s the link to the letter portsletter.pdf) Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman that he believes “it is critical that the department take measures to develop internal staff capacity to direct and manage a more robust public communications effort. Consistent with this goal, I suggest you swiftly reconsider the public education and community outreach contracts” approved June 19.
At the same time, the mayor wrote: “The contractor’s work should be viewed as a temporary supplement with a scope of one year … should be project specific and prohibit services related to obtaining media coverage; and…should be limited to one firm.”
In other words, he decided to defuse the P.R. time bomb created by the commission’s approval of open-ended contracts with the Rogers Group and Hill & Knowlton.
The contracts were widely seen as a replication of the $3 million a year deal the Department of Water and Power cut with the Fleishman-Hillard that led to scandal, controversy and ultimately federal court convictions of three P.R. executives.
Approval of the contracts six weeks ago raised questions about what role would be played by Steve Sugerman, the Fleishman-Hillard P.R. executive who got probation after changing his story and admitting he engaged in falsifying DWP billings.
A big question now is whether either P.R. firm is appropriate to handle a community relations effort rather than media manipulation.