California urged to keep rail communications in-house

SACRAMENTO, CA: The California High-Speed Rail Authority's in-house communications management has recommended the organization not award its statewide outreach and communications contract to an outside agency.

SACRAMENTO, CA: The California High-Speed Rail Authority's in-house communications management has recommended the organization not award its statewide outreach and communications contract to an outside agency.

The authority should first consider expanding its internal communications staff, Lance Simmens, deputy director of communications at the California High-Speed Rail Authority, told its board members in a memo.

He recommended that the organization explore a proposal “to consolidate existing reporting relationships and structural arrangements into a more efficient and effective public outreach matrix, augmented by the addition of six to 10 positions either through new hires or personnel from other state agencies.”

The recommendations follow the rail authority's October decision to throw out its most recent RFP and start over. The previous agency search process began in July after Ogilvy PR Worldwide terminated a $9 million, four-and-a-half-year contract with the organization. The authority issued a new RFP valued at $4.5 million in late August.

Ogilvy won the original contract in November 2009 after a competitive bidding process. That contract was previously awarded to Mercury Public Affairs in September 2009, but questions from board members and the news media about the agency's ties to then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office caused a second RFP to be issued, for which Mercury declined to pitch.

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