What has occurred since the no bid contract was awarded? The County submitted a work order to PB for over $498K on November 26, 2014 against their Miscellaneous Services contract. This is conveniently just under the $500K work order cap.
|Work Order for PB (click to enlarge)|
The FY2015 budget has $500K budgeted for transportation planning and this work order blows the entire years budget. Where is the additional $400K coming from for the rest of the PB contract work? No one at County Center seems to know. Will those dollars somehow magically appear from somewhere else in our budget?
What exactly is the above work order paying for? Supposedly Parsons Brinckerhoff was selected because they are a large transportation consulting firm that can "do it all". However, the Scope of Work associated with the work order tells a different story. The entire Scope document can be found here. The work is split between technical analysis and public engagement:
|PB Technical Analysis|
|PB Public Engagement|
Scroll thru the Scope of Work to page 6 and PB is subcontracting out communications and public involvement work to Beth Leytham's PR/Lobbying firm, the Leytham Group.
|The "Moving Your Agenda Forward" Leytham Group|
How much of the total work order is being subcontracted out to Leytham's PR firm? $281K of our county dollars are being funneled through PB to a PR Firm to do public engagement.
|$281K county tax dollars funneled thru PB to PR Firm for Public Engagement|
Strategic Public Relations and Issue ManagementLeytham's scope of work includes developing story pitches, preparing spokespersons for interviews and speaking engagements and briefing stakeholders, opinion leaders and citizens to "obtain their support" for the project. This sounds more like a sales pitch which is exactly what PR firms do. Is public engagement asking the public for input or pushing someone's preconceived plan?
Since 2002 we have helped companies move their agenda forward with communications strategies that bring you together with citizens, business leaders, elected officials and the media
A quick Google search found that Leytham is a long time friend and supporter of Commissioner Ken Hagan, was appointed to the County's Charter Review Board by Commissioner Mark Sharpe in 2010 and is a spokesperson for Mayor Buckhorn's campaign. According to this TBT article in September 2014 when Mayor Buckhorn filed his papers to run again,
In preparing for this campaign, Buckhorn assembled the same team of political operatives he has worked with in the past, some for 25 years: pollster Keith Frederick, direct-mail specialist Jon Coley, television consultant Dane Strother, former aide Siobhan Harley and Tampa public relations consultant Beth Leytham (emphasis mine).Is there any conflict of interest with our county tax dollars for an effort led by the Policy Leadership Group that includes Mayor Buckhorn, a known big rail supporter, being funneled to Buckhorn's PR firm thru PB?
According to campaign contributions reported on the SOE website over the last decade, Leytham and Parsons Brinckerhoff are regular, equal opportunity donors to our county commissioners.
Remember PSTA used at least $800K of taxpayer monies and resources to create and brand Greenlight Pinellas using PR firm Tucker Hall. That worked out well.....
In addition, PB is subcontracting out $25K of technical analysis to Jacobs Engineering. Why? Again, wasn't PB supposed to "do it all"?
The memo below is to PB's Bob Clifford from Jacobs Engineering. Bob Clifford, previous Executive Director for rail advocate TBARTA, resigned from TBARTA in June and went to work for PB. Clifford was at the August 12 PLG meeting where they voted to hire a transportation expert. Was Clifford involved at all with getting the county to award PB the $900K no-bid contract?
|PB Subcontracts to Jacobs Engineering|
The issue is this. The Policy Leadership Group specifically stated in August they wanted a "transportation expert" to do the public engagement not a PR firm. Below (emphasis mine) is from the transcript of the August 12 PLG meeting that is found here.
>>KEN HAGAN: I WANT TO TOUCH ON SOMETHING THAT MR. MERRILL JUST ALLUDED TO. I, FRANKLY, THINK THAT IT WOULD BE PRUDENT FOR US TO ENGAGE SOMEONE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO ASSIST US IN THIS PROCESS.I FEEL THAT THERE WOULD BE VALUE IN UTILIZING SOMEONE WHO IS A TRANSPORTATION EXPERT OR SOMEONE THAT HAS A TRANSPORTATION BACKGROUND. I THINK THIS WOULD PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS
KEN HAGAN: I'D LIKE TO OFFER UP A MOTION OR DIRECTION,WHATEVER, HERB OR MIKE THINKS,THAT WE GIVE YOU THE AUTHORITY TO MOVE FORWARD WITH ENGAGING SOMEONE IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR WITH TRANSPORTATION EXPERIENCE TO ASSIST US IN THIS INITIATIVE.
>>AL HIGGINBOTHAM: I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WHEN YOU'RE ENGAGING THIS FIRM THAT IT'S NOT A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM, THAT IT'S SOMEONE THAT HAS THAT TRANSPORTATION BACKGROUND
The truth is over half ($281K) of the almost $500K tax dollars handed to PB will be used for public engagement work, not transportation planning or analysis.
The reality is a PR firm is doing the public engagement work not a transportation expert.
Doesn't this go against exactly what county commissioners said about wanting a transportation expert and not a PR firm to do the public engagement work?
Do the county commissioners know all this? After making a public comment at the BOCC meeting today, they do now.
Let's hope they acknowledge these issues with the PB contract and work to resolve.
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