Gee, everyone. Sorry to have made such a fuss over the $60,000 worth of PR billing hours James Hoggan and Associates burned up over the Christmas holidays. That's about 200 hours worth of work at Hoggan's $295/hour rate. That's about 40 continous days worth of work at five billable "man" hours of work per day. That's a lot of PR strategy time that got jammed in over the weeks covering December 15th and January 5th when the contracts were signed. We sure hope it was worth it for the sake of Vancouver taxpayers.
We now know the dual Hoggan $30,000 contracts that bypassed the city's procurement policy are just fine because blogger Frances Bula tells us so. What a relief.
Here's how Fabula explains this little nagging issue that Mayor Robertson deftly noted "had raised questions."
[Hoggan was hired] because his company has expertise in international business media, which the city’s communications department didn’t have and which was going to be needed in a story involving the Olympic village...
We all realize that Vancouver's corporate communications department is wanting – posting a press release happens with glacial efficiency. But what interest does international business media have with Athletes Village 12 months before construction is completed? You'd think they already have their hands full with a global economic meltdown not to have to cover a parochial Vancouver political pissing match between Geoff "Mayor" Meggs and Sam Sullivan.
Hoggan got two $30,000 contracts, which Anton and others from the NPA have flagged as a problem because of suggestions that 1. somehow Councillor Geoff Meggs arranged them and 2. they should have been approved by council, since anything over $30,000 is supposed to be and breaking them into two $30,000 bits is sneaky.
Others from the NPA? How delightfully coy. "Somehow Meggs arranged them?" How has Frances' fanciful take on this turned "Geoff did it" into "somehow?"
Frances clarifies the role of her buddy Geoff:
To my understanding, Geoff made a suggestion in a meeting, he didn’t order that Hoggan be hired.
Indeed, Geoff may not have "ordered" anything. He uses his Vulcan mind meld and intense powers of suggestion to get bloggers and Allen Garr to publish his thoughts.
It’s obvious from looking at the city’s Schedule of Payments that many many organizations get paid more than $30,000 in a year by the city and somehow it doesn’t come to council for approval. That’s likely because at least some of them, like the Hoggan contract, pushed past the $60,000 mark because they were given one contract (and since $30,000 is the triggering limit, usually departments set the cap at $30,000 for smaller contracts) and then work got more complicated and extended and they were given another.
Yes, obvious. Pray tell, will someone from the Mayor's Office find one of these "many organizations" contracts that accidentally slip past the bylaws for you? And please explain, how are we supposed to know how Hoggan's work became "more complicated" in order to justify more weeks of work? The City Manager and the Mayor's Office have been less than transparent with details around this file.
(And, before one of my posters can bring it up, I’ll also mention that the Pace Group, aka Norman Stowe, got the contract to do former mayor Sam Sullivan’s Project Civil City announcement from the mayor’s discretionary fund, with no approval by council.)
Ho, ho, ho! Oh Frances, you thought you'd sneak that one in there, huh? Yes, Pace Group did work for Sam, but he used his DISCRETIONARY FUND. He didn't get the City Manager to pay for it. That's why it's called a DISCRETIONARY FUND, so the Mayor uses his own discretion on how the dollars are spent.
But even though there’s nothing technically or legally wrong, the reason this contract is attracting attention is because Jim Hoggan and his company have been supporters of Vision Vancouver.
No, you're right. The whole affair doesn't pose any questions over the propriety of paying twice the amount the city's bylaws allow. And you forgot that Hoggan gave nearly $12,000 in donations toward the 2005 election campaign.
That means it’s not passing the smell test or the resentment-by-others-wondering-if-they’re-being-shut-out-because-they’re-not-Vision-supporters test. Council members also have to be hyper-cautious about those perceptions. Even if they firmly believe they’re doing nothing wrong, the public and people who have business with city hall don’t like any suggestion that personal ties or political donations influence who gets contracts.
Yes, Frances. Once again your powers of analysis amaze. This is really just about some bitter outsiders who didn't get a contract because they didn't donate to Vision Vancouver.
Decades ago, there was a big flap about Jim Moodie getting a lot of contracts from the city as a development consultant. Was he incompetent or undeserving? No. But he was a friend of Gordon Campbell’s and so people in the development industry who also do business with city hall were resentful.
Great stuff. Let's all get into the time machine, shall we? Remember that time Mayor Tisdall had a little too much gin during the dinner break in October 1935? What a ruckus over that clearcut in Dunbar!
Recently, Geoff had a fun little journalism-type piece on his blog where he went around with a Black Top cab driver for the day, where the point seemed to be that there isn’t enough business already for the existing licence holders. There is a valid argument to be made for not granting more taxi licences. And I’ve never had any sense from Geoff that his opinion is swayed in the least by political donations.
So after this seemingly long journey about money and influence, it all comes down to fun little journalism-type pieces, eh? I wonder whatever happened to that thing called journalism.