A public relations firm cast in a bad light by its no-bid contract with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority that paid up to $325 an hour is walking away from the work.
“In this climate we can’t help our client right now,” said Greg Loh, the firm’s managing partner.
When asked what he meant by “this climate,” Loh responded: “I think that speaks for itself.”
The housing authority, landlord to some 10,000 low-income and elderly residents, has been taking a beating since news broke that BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett retained the firm in September 2011 without soliciting other bids or gaining the approval of her board. The firm has since been paid more than $90,000 thanks to a contract that pays $125 to $325 an hour.
The first salvo was fired May 1, when Investigative Post reported the authority was using Eric Mower to assist it in dodging questions regarding the BMHA’s failure to follow a City Charter mandate to recycle.
Sanders-Garrett had been forwarding emails with Investigative Post to Stephen Bell, a partner in Mower’s Buffalo office. Bell accidentally copied Investigative Post in an email he sent to Sanders-Garrett, signaling his approval of her refusal to grant an interview and suggesting he meet with her before the authority’s board meeting the following day “so we can practice before the meeting” in case an Investigative Post reporter showed up.
One did, and here’s how it went:
On May 12, the Buffalo News published an article that revealed the rates and fees paid to the public relations firm.
On the same day, Investigative Post followed up with our partners at WGRZ.
The media attention forced the housing authority to issue a press release stating it would bid out the contract for a public relations firm.
On Wednesday, The News published an editorial that said the authority shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer dollars on a public relations firm.
Today, the onslaught continued when The News’ Donn Esmonde wrote a scathing column that called the authority’s actions “a frontal assault on logic and common sense.”
This level of crisis management is apparently too much, prompting Eric Mower to raise the white flag.
The firm did make a different offer, though: to train someone – gratis – on the authority staff to handle the day-to-day public relations duties.