FD Element produced 100 DVDs promoting Mayor Robertson for $21,000
After this week's disturbing accusations surrounding Gregor Robertson's staff, documents released from the Vancouver Mayor's office show more plum contracts being paid to FD Element, aka FTI Consulting. The City released yet another non-itemized invoice – this one for $10,000 to conduct "international media relations" for Gregor Robertson during the 2010 Games. What Kevin Quinlan (aka Vancouver Kid blogger) and Hollyhocker Ryan Merkley were doing all this time is not clear.
Then another services agreement shows that FTI Consulting/FD Element Agency were paid $21,000 to produce "100 DVDs" to promote Mayor Gregor Robertson as the leader of Vancouver Green Capital at the COP15 Copenhagen climate summit last year. FD Element help organizations to promote green stuff like on this somewhat underwhelming blog.
FD Element's head office is in New York City, and the company has another office (FTI Consulting) based in Washington, DC. FD Element first made headlines for a $52,000 no-bid contract for producing the so-called "SNAP: 2010" videos (like this one on the Olympic Village) which were more about image-building for Gregor Robertson than they were about selling the city's attributes.
FD Element have quite clearly been given the task of building Gregor Robertson's personal image on the local and international stage at considerable cost to Vancouver taxpayers through social and traditional media. If Robertson was El Presidente for Life like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, or a despot who dies in office like Stalin, I think most of us would consider spending money to promote Gregor Robertson was a good idea. But despite Robertson's musings about the disadvantages of democracy, I believe we still have the opportunity to vote him out of office.
One would expect that Vision would hire a qualified, politically-connected supplier to do this work. All governments do that. We wish, however, Gregor Robertson didn't make such a stink about promising "to do things differently at City Hall" if elected. Quite clearly, he's just doing what everyone else does.
FD Element's connections to Mike Magee and Gregor Robertson run deep. One of the company's clients is Power Up Canada, led by former neighbour of Gregor Robertson and fellow Hollyhock board member Tzeporah Berman. Power Up Canada is paid for through grants and donations handled by the Tides Canada Foundation. Those who closely read the invoice to FD Element to pay for civicscene.ca from TommyMedia will have noted that the contractor also did work on a website called ZeroCarbonCanada. After searching high and low on ZCC's website we found that it's run by someone named Chris Hatch, formerly of the Rainforest Action Network, another Tides project.
Coincidentally, Mike Magee's consulting company Convergence Communications includes Power Up Canada as one of his clients.
Now, I realize that all the above proves nothing untoward has taken place. It's probably because of this vagueness that most media have simply stayed away from reporting on this. Some media are – GlobalTV, CKNW News, The Georgia Straight, 24 Hours, for example – and for this they should be commended. And to her credit Frances Bula has covered this story, as well as presenting vehement denials of any corruption from FD, Ross and Mike Magee.
Over at the Georgia Straight, Charlie Smith has interviewed Mike Magee who claims he has been "defamed" over recent accusations by a former FD Element staffer. If, as Magee claims, he has no involvement in what is penned under Jonathon Ross' name online or in print, or that he's taking all measures to make sure that Vancouver taxpayers are getting good value by repeatedly enlisting FD Element to promote Mayor Robertson, it's going to be hard to prove it either way. As the FD Element deep throat suggested in his interview with Marisa Thomas, most exchanges with Magee are not happening on his City of Vancouver email account.
Magee can and should take more measures to abide by Vision's promise to be the most open and transparent government ever. For example, in a recent trip to New York Mike Magee "hosted" a $621 dinner that Vancouver taxpayers paid for. Magee refused media requests to explain who he hosted at the dinner in New York, and what that $621 paid for. Why not? Wouldn't it be simpler just to let the public know who he hosted at a dinner we paid for?
Furthermore, when he flies off to San Francisco with the Mayor, conducts dinner meetings and won't reveal publicly who he met with, all made possible with public dollars, why won't he just be open about it?
On the subject of the website FD Element produced, Magee does not appear to be accurate with his claims of expanded project scope:
FD Element initially proposed creating the mayor's site for approximately $14,000. Magee increased the fee to FD Element to $27,500.
"The scope of the work increased significantly," Magee said. "We developed a stand-alone rather than just one page; it was a full stand-alone Web site with video and a database and this whole thing, but the [city's] IT department wasn’t prepared to handle [it]."
As FD Element's original job proposal showed, the "increased" work was in the original $14,500 bid.
Conveniently for himself of course, Mike Magee is telling media not to consider the work of bloggers (or 24 Hours columnists) as factually accurate enough for publication. According to his interview with Charlie Smith he says:
[it's] "a highly problematic trend that you’re seeing in the U.S. and now being adopted here".
"I don’t think it bodes very well for accurate reporting or an appropriate means of having public discourse about issues," the chief of staff stated. "It has turned into a smearfest and I think that’s a bad turn of events."
Of course, this is what Jim Green, Frances Bula, Gary Mason and others are saying too. "Believe us because we're not bloggers and therefore more unbiased and accountable." If there are any "U.S. style" tactics in play, they're all coming from the Mayor's office alleged dirty tricks, not us, folks. Fortunately, most are smart enough not to take this advice.
If Mike Magee thinks we've published something that is not true, or that we or GlobalTV have smeared him or Mayor Robertson, I challenge Magee to explain where exactly we've done this, and help us and other media to correct the record.
Mayor Robertson must ask Magee and his staff to open up ALL records, including cell phone call statements to give the public the confidence that these so-called dirty tricks aren't happening.
UPDATE: Vancouver Sun's city hall reporter Jeff Lee is on vacation but takes time to blog about all the issues here.
- post by Mike