State Government:
Brown Administration Cancels $10 Million Bay Bridge PR Contract After Media Questions the Spending

After The Sacramento Bee uncovered records of a $10 million public relations contract agreed to by state officials overseeing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Brown administration quickly cancelled the agreement. "When we found out about it, we cancelled it," Jim Evans, a spokesman for the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, said.

According to columnists Philip Matier and Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle, Governor Jerry Brown personally ordered the cancellation of the contract.

Among other things, the contractor, World Pictures Ideas LLC, was expected to produce a video and book highlighting events leading up to the opening of the alternative east span of the bridge, which is far over initial cost estimates. (CalTax: We wonder if the video and book would have highlighted this aspect of the project, which now is estimated to cost $6.4 billion.)

Mr. Evans said the contract was excessive, and had not been properly vetted at CalTrans headquarters. It was approved by District Supervisor Bijan Sartipi.

Bart Ney, speaking on behalf of the company that was awarded the public relations contract, said other large infrastructure projects have included money for commemorative books. Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross reported that Mr. Ney was to get $355,000 per year under the contract. Mr. Ney said his salary was to be less than $200,000, with the rest for benefits and overhead.

According to the Chronicle columnists, CalTrans has spent another $8 million on bridge PR over the last four years, with much of it going to the same consultants. A sizeable amount went to a five-person communications team that billed $75- to $160-an-hour each. (Sources: The Sacramento Bee, December 13; San Francisco Chronicle, December 16.)

December 21, 2012
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