CHARLESTON, WV: The selection process for a $3 million state advertising and PR account to attract tourists and new businesses to West Virginia has raised a red flag after four of the five agencies in the running were disqualified.
No reason was given by the state purchasing office to either the agencies or the media about why it unsealed only one of the five "cost bids" - a final step in the selection process - effectively excluding the other firms.
The Arnold Agency, based in Charleston, is the presumed winner of the contract, which the state hasn't officially awarded.
Linda Arnold, the agency's CEO, said through her assistant that it is "premature" to comment on the contract.
David Tincher, director of the purchasing office, told the Charleston Daily Mail that agencies could be disqualified for failing to meet requirements listed in the RFP or for not scoring enough points during creative and oral presentations.
He didn't return calls seeking comment.
This will be the first time in about 10 years that West Virginia has hired outside marketing help, noted Jan Dickinson, director of marketing and communications at the state development office.
"When purchasing is ready to explain why they opened the one bid, there will be less [concern]," she said.
The four left-out agencies expressed varying levels of consternation over the situation.
Henry Peck, president of Charles Ryan Associates of Charleston, noted that his firm's attorneys are planning to file an appeal.
George Manahan, president of the Manahan Group, also of Charleston, called the situation "highly, highly unusual."
David Kalmar, director of strategic planning at Group LIH, said the New York-based agency was "stunned," but did not plan to protest the outcome.
An official at Doe Anderson, a Louisville, KY-based agency, echoed that sentiment.