The Port originally had hoped to extend two three-year PR contracts to Hill & Knowlton and The Rogers Group for new work, but after reviewing the proposed contracts, the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa requested that the Port limit its work with outside PR firms to just one firm and for only one year.
The decision comes a little more than two years after two former Los Angeles' Fleishman-Hillard executives were found guilty of federal wire fraud and conspiracy charges in an alleged case of overbilling several of the agency's LA clients, including the Port of Los Angeles.
In a letter to the Harbor Commission July 23, Mayor Villaraigosa said that he applauded the group's efforts to “grow and green” the port and recognized that “this initiative requires an even stronger public education and community outreach program than has ever before existed at the Port of Los Angeles.” However, the Mayor suggested the work be viewed as a “temporary supplement” while the Port works to develop “internal staff capacity” to work on such projects.
"A lot of it is [about] wanting the Port to build up its internal capacity, and ensure we're moving in the right direction," said Parita Shah, press secretary for the Office of the Mayor. "The Mayor really feels that the focus needs to be on the Clean Truck Program at this point."
The Port currently has three openings in its communications staff, including media relations director.
"By virtue of [the Mayor's] criteria, we are going forward with a contract with The Rogers Group to support our Clean Truck Program," said Arley Baker, senior director of communications and legislative affairs for the Port of Los Angeles. "We're going into the critical stages of implementing the program for an October 1 launch date. Another part of the scope of work will be to support a public education and outreach program."
The Clean Truck Program, which will work to reduce air emissions, gradually bans trucks made prior to 1989 beginning October 1, charges a fee for dirty trucks, requires that trucks servicing the Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach port be operated by licensed concessionaires, and, by 2012, meet 2007 EPA emissions standards.
The American Trucking Association filed a lawsuit on July 28 challenging the Port's right to enforce these requirements.
A representative from the Mayor's office said Villaraigosa is just waiting for the Port to re-work the contracts and confirmed the details of the Mayor's letter, which was posted on a LA blogger's site.
The Board of the LA Harbor Commissioners met on Thursday, August 7, and approved the new contract, Baker told PRWeek. It now needs approval from Villaraigosa before moving forward.
"At this point, I think we've gone full circle and the last couple of weeks have been really focused on working with the Mayor's office to create a win-win situation, and I think we've done it," Baker said.
The Rogers Group declined to comment about the pending contract. Hill & Knowlton also had no comment.