FD Element back in the news over lucrative PR contract

Post by Mike Klassen in

11 comments

lemon gregor
When you're selling this, apparently you need professional help – click for larger

24 Hours crack reporter Bob Mackin has a new twist on an old story relating to the controversial Gregor Robertson spin doctors FD Element. In Friday's paper he reported that FD Element were paid $5000 to provide media and communications assistance on Mayor Gregor's trip to New York last April. That's the one where he met with the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation folks, and the anti-oil crusaders NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council).

According to Mackin's report, the PR bill doubled the cost of the Mayor's trip to New York:

The Vancouver branch of New York ad agency FD Element billed city taxpayers $5,250 to manage and promote Robertson’s April 12-14 trip, according to documents released Monday under Freedom of Information.

Taxpayers were also charged $5,272.29 for Robertson and chief of staff Mike Magee’s expenses. Magee stayed until April 17 and his expenses included $621.59 for “hosting.” He refused to identify the people he hosted. (see Mackin's story on Magee's Manhattan Mystery Guests)

FD Element were heavily criticized last summer when it was discovered that they were paying the costs for Vision Vancouver's blogger, while taking healthy contracts from the City and the Mayor's office to promote Gregor Robertson locally and abroad. GlobalTV Reporter Marisa Thomas first broke open the matter of FD Element getting a $52,000 contract to record videos of Mayor Gregor during the Olympics.

The items FD were hired to do were:

That totals $110,500 not including sales tax. When Penny Ballem was pressed about this number by Coun. Anton at a September 21st meeting of city council, the City Manager agreed "it's just over one hundred ten thousand, that's correct".

So you would think that's it, right? Penny Ballem said on September 21st no more money had been paid to FD Element after a direct question from council. But not so fast! Turns out that there was more paid to these guys – five thousand bucks. Of course, for Dr. Ballem that's just a drop in the bucket.

After allegations were made last September that the Mayor's office might have funneled money to a third party to hire someone to attack Vision's critics while plumping up the accomplishments of the governing party, Chief of Staff Mike Magee howled that he had been defamed. He even went so far as to say that he would "open his books" to prove that there was nothing conspicuous about him doubling the payment to a Vision-friendly company who it was proven had covered the bills for creating the pro-Vision blog.

Magee's statements turned out to be a lot of hot air. In the end Magee didn't sue anyone for defamation, and he certainly never bothered to let anyone review his files for proof of a kickback to a blogger. In fact, our FOI request for Magee's cell phone records during this critical period have still not been responded to in nearly four months.

Don Millar CEO FD ElementKey personnel such as CEO Don Millar (see right) and Vice-President Mike Wilson of FD Element worked on the Vision Vancouver campaign in 2008. Perhaps because of increasing criticism by this blog and other media about non-itemized invoices being paid by Chief of Staff Mike Magee, FD provided a 2-page explanation of their work six months after they had billed for their work. See the invoices and the attached letter dated September 18th here. The date of the file shows that it was originally created September 23rd by the City, and revised on November 9th.

September 23rd was two days after Anton's inquiries about FD Element in council.

The letter explains that for $5000 they provided approximately 20 hours of work. Quick math shows that Gregor Robertson's personal public relations crew are getting paid a very healthy $250 per hour!

Nice work if you can get it, eh boys?

For their fees FD Element managed to get interviews with an Ontario freelancer based in New York who took note of Robertson's good looks, and interviews with stringers from both the Globe and Mail and National Post. An environmental reporter from Time also spoke with Robertson, but nothing from the meeting was published.

The most puzzling thing about Gregor and Magee's New York trip was that they slipped out of town on the public dime with no press release. Letting media know you're leaving town on City business has been standard public relations procedure for all mayors until now. But no one knew Gregor and Magee had left until Robertson tweeted from Brooklyn.

Bob Mackin's FOI and subsequent story on Roberton & Magee's New York itinerary provided some amazing fodder for this blog. Gregor not only met with some of his American campaign donors, he sat down with a VP of the powerful Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, a group that have been supplying the Tides Foundation with untold millions, who have in turn poured large amounts of that money into Canada.

Gregor Robertson is a former director of the Tides Canada Foundation, and his principal financial backers are employed by Tides charities. And eight weeks after returning from his 90-minute meeting with NRDC reps Gregor decided to put oil transport through the Burrard Inlet on the Vancouver council agenda, despite the fact the City has no jurisdiction over these matters.

So how much more money has been paid to FD Element by Vancouver taxpayers that the public doesn't know about yet? Will we keep finding out about more contracts as time goes on, or are they cut off for now? Perhaps it's time that Mike Magee truly "opens the books."

Why Gregor Robertson continually has to hire outside help for public relations when he has full time staff who are paid generous salaries to do this work already is not clear. What is clear though is that Vancouver taxpayers are not getting any return on their $120,000 investment in Mayor Gregor's public image.

- post by Mike

11 Comments

why has main stream media not picked up on this stuff?

It is now becoming clear since City Hall has further tightened its FOI office that there is something Gregor and crew are trying to hide....

How far could that 100,000. have gone towards, homelessness, or, the 18,000 dollar shortfall that First United is facing for their homeless storage program, that employ's 7-8 DTES residents at minimum wages...

The priorities of this council are not consistent with the duties of a Mayor, nor a city council.
I would question whether his spending of our tax dollars is appropriate.

250.00 per hour for Gregor's personal agenda... when programs for cleaning community center washrooms as a comparison that immediately comes to mind...

Something is wrong with this administration, very, very wrong.

The next time Gregor et all criticize the Provincial government, perhaps they should reevaluate their fingerprints on our City failures.

We are paying to promote Gregor's personal profile as the environmental guru, on the backs of those that can lease afford it..

Shame on Vision...

Strange the way the invoice is on FD Element Letterhead but if you look at the fine print at the bottom of the page it mentions the company as being called FTI Consulting Canada at an address on West Georgia in Vancouver but the cheque has to be payable to a New York address and the name is "FTI Consulting Canada ULC D/B/A FD Element".

Isnt it the other way around they are doing business in Vancouver as FTI with the Vancouver address and the head company is FD Element?

Also I thought ULC's were only in Alberta and Nova Scotia in Canada and not BC?

Hmmm......

FD Element is a part of FTI Consulting based out of Washington, DC. http://www.fticonsulting.com/

The New York office is FD http://fd.com/

Btw, Renewal Partners is an unlimited company registered in Nova Scotia. I thought this was odd so I looked up why a company would want to be unlimited and registered in Nova Scotia, rather than in BC.

http://www.novascotiabusiness.com/en/home/locate/incentivesandtaxes/NovaScotiaUnlimitedLiabilityCompany.aspx

I think it has something to do with the residency requirements of company directors.

I started out responding to this mornings topic about the FD Element contract but I posted it under this thread by mistake.
If you follow through, the topic immediately got railroaded by Boohoo.

In all honesty I did get frustrated by the fact that this story got side tracked as I feel the FD Element issue is huge...so there is the situation, topic got derailed, and I stand by my original post first thing this morning... Vision needs to come clean about FD Element!
Lets get back to topic at hand...please note I've responded under today's topic to keep us on track.

Sorry guys that was as clear as mud wasn't it..I copied and pasted but forgot the into... got it about the guidelines... :-)

Question:

Is Robertson receiving 'employment' income from anyone other than the City of Vancouver?

Just curious.

What an interesting question Max.

"Why Gregor Robertson continually has to hire outside help for public relations when he has full time staff who are paid generous salaries to do this work already is not clear."

Oh, but it's so very clear Mike.
The 'joint' always moves in a close circle. So I've heard. From me to you to him to her to that guy I forgot his name to her and back to me. Of course, no one inhales.All kosher.

What do you think?

love your sense of humor Michelle... too funny

Please boohoo I'm not buying it

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