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Tuesday October 21st 2014

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Hiding the Swave

Although Mayor Hayward made the decision to hire the Zimmerman Agency in November 2011, it would be three months before he informed the city council of his decision.

Former City Councilwoman Diane Mack had followed the RFP process on the advertising contract. She told the council at its Feb. 9, 2012 meeting that she had some concerns about the selection process. Mack asked the council to rewrite its purchasing ordinance.

The way Mack interpreted the ordinance was that the selection process for contracts over $100,000 with a company that wasn’t a qualified Small Business Enterprise should have been approved by the city council. Zimmerman was not a SBE.

“It was a sort of chicken-or-the egg problem,” Mack told the Independent News. “The problem is that until you know what the amount of the contract will be—how do you decide if it should go to the council?”

The next morning, Reynolds sent out a memo to council. He wrote, “It is clear that Ms. Mack is unaware that the Mayor is authorized to award services without council approval when money has been budgeted and appropriated for such services whether or not the company is a SBE.” (TZA WR 21012)

Mack told the paper, “It wasn’t the amount. It wasn’t the authorization. The issue was whether it was within the council’s purview to determine which way the firm would be selected.”

Reynolds also wrote in the memo, “As for the Zimmerman Agency, as promised we will have a presentation on them at the next COW. In a subsequent meeting, we will be presenting their efforts on marketing/city branding.”

Zimmerman did not present to city council at its next meeting. No presentation would be made until Sept. 10, 2012, nearly two months after the new brand had been presented to the public and over half million dollars had been spent.

Mayor Hayward sent a memo to council on Feb. 20 that announced the retention of Zimmerman to provide marketing and advertising services for the city and its enterprises over three years. He said that the branding platform was a key component of his economic development strategy.

“Through the adoption of a brand platform, the City along with its enterprises, agencies and associated entities will have the opportunity to unify under one single brand for marketing purposes,” he said. “The Zimmerman Agency has committed to deliver a brand platform prior to March 31.”

The brand would not be presented to the city council until the July event at the Saengar Theatre. Reynolds also failed to fulfill his commitment on presenting information on the marketing/city branding efforts at subsequent council meetings.

City emails show a concerted offer by him and the Public Information Officer Derek Cosson to hide the new city logos, Zimmerman reports and other information from the city council and the public.

At the council’s May 24, 2012 meeting, Diane Mack asked about the progress of her public request, dated May 7, regarding the “Reports of Accountability” that the Agency was required to submit to the city per its agreement: monthly activity reports, monthly spreadsheets, updated actual vs. budgeted spending and monthly promotion grid. (Mack_May09)

“I apologize that I’ve been a little distracted the last few days. I just found out about this request—I think it was Monday,” the city administrator responded. “I actually have the document on my desk. I will get them out tomorrow morning.”

Reynolds waited until May 29 to send out the report. He included the note, “Sorry about the earlier delay… I wasn’t aware of the request.”

City mails show that the city administrator was aware of Mack’s request the day it was received and immediately instructed Cosson, “Please contact Zimmerman and inform of this request.” (Reynolds_Mack507)

Travis Peterson’s emails show that The Zimmerman Agency was asked to modify one report and take out references to the new logo. Curtis Zimmerman sent on May 25 a modified report attached to an email with the subject “Revised Status Report Sans Logo.” Peterson forwarded the email to Reynolds on Sunday, May 27. He had deleted “Sans Logo” from the subject line. (Peterson May 25)

Mack was given the modified report. The original report, that Reynolds told the council that he had, was not given to the Independent News or Pensacola City Council.

In June 2012, both Councilwoman Maren DeWeese and Chief of Staff John Asmar requested that Zimmerman be discussed at a city council meeting. Reynolds refused and informed the council executive assistant, Elaine Mager: “The Council did not vote to have the Zimmerman Agency Contract as a discussion item. They may do that in the future, but for this agenda we need to have in the discussion section that which I have outlined above.”

By May 31, the Zimmerman bills totaled $301,213. Asmar asked Reynolds in a June 5 email, “Has the Zimmerman Agency met with Council? Should they?”

Reynolds replied, “As soon as we unveil the logo.” (Reynolds_Asmar)

And it’s the logo that appears Reynolds wanted to keep from the public.

Diane Mack made on June 28 a public records request for the copies of the new logos. Cosson informed the city clerk that he would check and see if he had any reports. The PIO had been responsible for approving all the Zimmerman invoices, except for those concerning the city enterprises. (Reynolds+Cosson)

He added, “Unless Bill knows otherwise, we have not yet taken delivery of the logos.”

Reynolds confirmed Cosson’s statement by email, “We have not.”

City emails show that the new logos for the Port of Pensacola, Pensacola International Airport and ESP, whose name was to be changed to Pensacola Energy, had been approved in May by their department heads. The airport had already approved a new monument sign with the new logo. The new sign had been installed before Mack made her request.

On June 10, Jill Reading sent Cosson a PDF file of the new city logo. When he requested it from the Zimmerman Agency, the PIO wrote, “ASAP can you send me some sort of image of the new City logo? I know we’ve been trying to keep it off the books but the Mayor needs it for something.” (Cossonlogo )

There is also an email exchange on June 26, two days before Mack’s request, between Cosson and the ECUA Executive Steve Sorrell about the new city logo. The Zimmerman Agency had approached ECUA on June 14 about painting the new city logo on its water towers. (Cosson_ECUA)

“Have you seen the new logo for Pensacola,” Sorrell wrote Cosson. “I am not sure it depicts the message you want. Moreover, it is so long (letter wise), it may be difficult to utilize.”

Cosson confirmed that he had seen the new logo. “I have a feeling that the costs are likely prohibitive at this time but the Mayor really wanted to establish a number.”

For businesses, keeping new brand and marketing campaigns under wraps until all components are ready might make good business sense. However, governments aren’t allowed that luxury under Florida’s public record law, especially when tax dollars are involved.

According to Florida law, “it is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency.” Any public officer who violates the state public records law commits a noncriminal infraction, punishable by fine not exceeding $500. If a person does it willfully and knowingly, he commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by $1,000 and/or a year in prison.

There are some exemptions to the law, but none appear to apply to this instance.

In 2009, Escambia Commissioner Gene Valentino was fined $500 for failing to release emails concerning a possible casino on Perdido Key in a timely manner. His actions were considered unintentional.

After hearing nothing from Cosson about the logo, Mack followed up on her request on July 5 and was told that Cosson and Reynolds said they didn’t have the logos.

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