Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Greensboro And RLF Communications, Part 2

A few days ago I published my article Greensboro And RLF Communications. In it was the fact that Greensboro's Public Relation's department hired RLF Communications in 2010 to help bring Google Fiber to Greensboro and that the effort ended in 2011. I pointed out that the City of Greensboro had paid RLF Communications a total of  $79,165.32, most of it since 2013.

But I did omit something.

There was a second and very vague contract with RLF Communications. I wanted to find out just what that contract was for so I e-mail Greensboro City Manager, Jim Westmoreland the following message:

As you can see I've already got the second contract but it is very vague. I think voters need a better explanation as to what it is RLF Communications is doing for the City of Greensboro. I mean, could it just be possible that now that your PR Department has a regular vendor on hand they find it all too easy to simply pick up the phone or shoot off an e-mail so that someone else is doing the work they should be doing?
You know it's not often that I pick on staff and city employees (I'm not Ben Holder) but I do find the need for PR to always be suspicious at best and cannot help but question the integrity of those who would willing work in such a field.
That said, I await your answer and your thoughts on how I might go forward with this. http://greensboroperformingarts.blogspot.com/2015/10/greensboro-and-rlf-communications.html
Thanks -Billy"

I had hoped Mr Westmoreland would be frank with me being the contract is in fact with the city manager's office and not with any other department of city government.

Apparently Mr Westmoreland decided Donnie Turlington of the Communications and Marketing Department, aka, Public Relation, was qualified to comment on the operations of the City Manager's office as this is the response I got:

"Hi Billy,

Mr. Westmoreland asked me to follow up with you regarding the RLF request. It’s not unusual for large municipalities to have relationships with public relations and marketing agencies and the previous city manager initiated the contract between the City and RLF to offer as-needed support on various communications projects. Under those contracts, the City has used RLF for items like strategic consulting, the design of printed materials, along with web and message development where there have been large projects or when the City’s communications staff is tied-up working on other assignments.  


Donnie Turlington, APR, Director of Communications and Marketing
Office of the City Manager
City of Greensboro
Phone: 336-373-3769
PO Box 3136, Greensboro, NC 27402-3136

Looks like the City of Greensboro has hired a spin firm. Someone to give them plausible deniability should something go wrong. Someone to quietly take the blame when the City Manager's office screws up. An entity without a face, someone who can neither be disciplined nor fired. As Donnie Turlington wrote, "It's not unusual for large municipalities to have relationships with public relations and marketing agencies" just not necessarily for the reasons Donnie stated and more likely for the reasons stated in the contract:

 Now the question becomes, what were the crisis communications, media relations strategy and tactical support issues RLF Communications was paid to spin? And how far did they go to spin those stories? 

And being we already know Donnie Turlington and Jim Westmoreland don't intend to be honest with us, who can we ask?

Today is election day. The City Manager is one of the 2 people our City Council can hire and fire.