Kim Plyler's one-year, $84,000 public relations contract is that there is nothing in place to prevent wholesale abuse.
Although this contract is nominally with the County, the real beneficiary is the Executive. Plyler's "scope of services", refers to weekly phone calls with the "client," meaning the Executive, though the the bill for these services are being paid by the people of Northampton County. Nothing in that scope of services provides for communications with either the workforce or Council. It appears that she is being paid $84,000 a year to make sure brown appears in Bethlehem's Saint Patrick's Day Parade. In effect, the public has just made an $84,000 campaign contribution to Brown's next campaign. Why use NIZ twins J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper if you can get the public to foot the bill?
I am also disturbed that Plyler could use her inside knowledge to alert potential vendors to possible County business.
It's a bad contract.
At the last Council meeting, Council tabled a resolution condemning this contract, but the matter was only tabled until the meeting this Thursday. They are going to have to weigh in on the legality of this contract.
Solicitor Vic Scomillio told Council that no bid was required because public relations is not a professional service as that term is defined in the Administrative Code. Since Plyler has had specialized training in public relations at the Defense Information School and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, that's a tough sell.
But the biggest obstacle to the legality of this no-bid contract is that the Executive Order authorizing it occurred after the fact, in violation of the Administrative Code. Moreover, the order fails to state any reason why it would be imprudent or impractical to proceed with competitive negotiation. Scomillio noted this process is time-consuming and could take two to three months, but Brown has wasted nearly three months without appointing most of his cabinet.
This contract is certainly illegal, but worse than that, it is something that can easily be abused. Public relations should be performed by government employees who are barred from using their role to play politics or curry favor with vendors.