Saturday, July 05, 2014

Brown Awards Controversial PR Contact to Sahl Communications ... Again

Northampton County's controversial public relations contract with Sahl Communications is back on on again. Executive John Brown issued an Executive Order right before the Independence Day holiday, agreeing to a $75,500 "communications consulting services" deal with the Bethlehem firm, owned by Kim Plyler. In his award, Brown points out that it is a "female-Veteran owned small business." The contract is for a one-year period. Because it's under $100,000, no approval is needed from County Council.

Brown's deal with Plyler was originally an $84,000 no-bid contract, bitterly opposed by all four Democrats on Council. They argued that it was a professional services contract, requiring competitive proposals. Solicitor Vic Scomillio disagreed, calling it a "nonprofessional service done in a professional way."

The contract was ultimately challenged in court by the Controller, who filed a Declaratory Judgment action on April 3. That very day, Executive John Brown responded by ending the contract and agreeing to seek proposals from other forms.

Aside from Sahl, the County considered a proposal by Brian Communications, located in Conshohocken.

Brown is the first Northampton County Executive to ever hire an outside PR firm. Historically, that function has been performed as part of the job responsibilities of a Director of Administration.

Brown's choice for Director of Administration, Cathy Allen, was defeated by County Council by a 6-3 vote in April.

Updated 1:25 pm to correct the contract amount. 

10 comments:

Matt Miles said...

The exact same Executive who says everyone needs to look at their departments and cut 10%? Typical of a person in business to say... cut yours and never mind me.

But what can just an ordinary citizen do when it comes to an executive order?

Rambler said...

I'm paying for a PR firm to spin shit in order to make it smell nicer - for his benefit - when there is no money or need for it.
I want my vote back.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Matt, There is nothing really that people like you are me can do, except register our displeasure at the ballot box.

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

Some humor in the fact that when I read the national news, Republicans are up in arms at an Executive who uses executive orders after legislative rejection or inaction, and accuse him being an "imperial" president, or worse. But in NorCo we have a Republican Executive using executive orders after legislative rejection. So are Exec Orders good or bad??

While he may not need Council approval since under 100k,I assume there is still $78,600 appropriated by Council for Brown's discretionary use in such matters? Especially with tight budgets, and all. Secondly, is this going to be the first in a series of contracts "for a one-year period" that will give him in the end what Council rejected? If so we better call Speaker Boehner to see how to address this situation.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, this administration has turned into a nightmare. From the failed Zosky contract, to the failed Allen appointment, no Director of Admin, no Fiscal Affairs, no Sheriff. Perhaps no one wants to work for this guy? The guy is 1/8 through his term, with no wins, and has communicated no vision for the remainder of his term.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Many of those who voted for him are disappointed..

Anonymous said...

Where will we see the communications (spins) posted?

Mcall, LVL, LV Ramblings, county website?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The last news release she issued was pretty pathetic. It was full of spelling and grammatical errors. During a photo event at the courthouse, she used a cellphone instead of a real camera. Then there's the ethical problem. There are too many opportunities for mischief in assigning this role to someone not bound the HRC. In effect, the county is spending this money to help re-eect Brown.

Anonymous said...

The Repubs got their man to run ineffectual government right here in the valley! Heckuva job, Brownie.

Anonymous said...

Brown has no integrity resubmitting this contract. It is over 25 K and there should be competitive bids or an RFP. There is no way Brown can justify this as a "sole source" or that it should be a one bid contrqct. There is nothing unique about their services. PR firms are a dime a dozen and there are many in the valley that are far better qualified. Brown is wasting taxpayers dollars at a time when the county is broke. His administration has been a farce.