No-bid City Hall contract goes to firm co-owned by mayor’s campaign manager
City Hall has hired a marketing and public-relations firm co-owned by the Park City woman who managed Mayor Dana Williams’ re-election campaign in 2009, awarding a contract to the Park City-based firm without first publicly seeking bids, as is the case with more lucrative contracts.
The deal between City Hall and the firm, known as Redhead Marketing & PR, had not been widely publicized. Hilary Reiter, who managed the mayor’s campaign last year against Brad Olch, is one of two owners of the firm. The other owner does not have ties to the mayor.
City Hall said the contract is worth $4,300, with the possibility of the price tag climbing to $5,800. Phyllis Robinson, the City Hall staffer who manages the municipal government’s public-relations efforts, said the contract went into effect in June and is expected to expire by the end of the summer.
Robinson, who will be involved in the work, said City Hall policy did not require officials advertise for a firm in order to seek the lowest qualified bid based on the value of the deal.
Larger contracts require a more extensive selection process. Those valued at more than $10,000 but less than $20,000 necessitate City Hall make an effort to gather three bids before inking a deal. Contracts of that size, though, do not require a City Council authorization vote. Contracts that are valued at more than $20,000 must be advertised publicly through what is known as a request for proposals. The City Council must vote to approve contracts of that size.
The mayor said in an interview he was unaware of the contract negotiations until after they were finalized and said he did not have knowledge of the dollar amount. He said Reiter worked for his campaign in a volunteer position and was not on the teams that worked on his two earlier Election Day wins.
"I had nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing to do with it," Williams said about the deal between City Hall and Reiter’s firm. "I didn’t know when they got picked."
He said he did not know Reiter well prior to her signing onto the 2009 campaign.
City Hall hired Reiter’s firm as officials prepared to overhaul their communications efforts with regular Parkites. Robinson said Redhead Marketing & PR conducted some of the early work on a survey polling Parkites on the ways they receive information about the municipal government.
The firm will also revamp a City Hall newsletter, draft an overall communications strategy for officials and be involved in the efforts to publicize the upcoming launch of a reverse 911 system that allows leaders to alert phone customers of emergencies.
Robinson said she pursued the contract with Reiter’s firm without the mayor being consulted. She said she heard Reiter in a radio interview, spurring her interest in retaining Redhead Marketing & PR for City Hall.
The mayoral campaign last year, which Williams won over Olch, his predecessor in the mayor’s office, was a throwback to the hotly contested elections in the years leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics. Olch was especially aggressive in the final weeks of the campaign, leveling some of the sharpest criticism Williams has faced during his administration.
Reiter was part of an inner circle that helped guide Williams through challenges from Olch of his handling of crucial issues like the local economy and the Sweeney family’s Treasure development proposal.
In an interview on Monday, Reiter said she and Williams did not discuss the prospects of her working with City Hall after the election. She also said City Hall did not prepare to overhaul the communications efforts until months after Election Day. She expects the City Hall work will be on a "pretty short-term" basis.
"I’ve lived here for nine years, and I love where I live," Reiter said.
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