Eric Mower & Associates will not be among the companies that will be responding to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s call for a public relations firm.
The BMHA sent out a request for proposals late last week for PR services like media relations, communications skills training, communications support and crisis management.
The bids are due back June 3, Stephen W. Bell, an EMA partner, said earlier this week.
But Mower – which has been paid more than $100,000 since 2011 do work that ranged from crisis management to routine communications services like writing and editing news releases – will not be among them.
“We will not pursue future RFPs to the authority ... because we were concerned we can’t help our client right now,” said Greg Loh, EMA managing partner, during a telephone interview Friday. EMA hand-delivered letters to BMHA officials on Thursday.
The letters, written by Bell, specified the firm would not be responding to the requests and noted that some of the work the firm did for the authority recently led to criticism of the authority’s use of public relations counsel.
Since 2011, the authority “engaged Eric Mower & Associates to assist the BMHA with crisis communications related to asbestos at Marine Drive and Kensington Heights,” Bell wrote.
“That work, which as you know continues today, resulted in additional assignments over the intervening months and recently led to criticism of the authority’s use of PR counsel.”
Bell further wrote that the firm would volunteer to train a BMHA staffer – at no charge up until July 1 – who could handle routine public relations duties.
EMA’s announcement comes in the wake of inquiries made by The Buffalo News since the beginning of the year through the state’s Freedom of Information Law regarding the hiring of the Mower firm.
The authority released the information to The News on May 3.
According to the documents obtained by The News, the rates that Mower charged the housing agency last year ranged from $325 an hour for work done by a senior partner to $125 an hour for tasks performed by junior associates.
Descriptions of the work that Mower did were blacked out in the documents given to The News.
EMA was paid at least $102,361 since 2011 by the authority.
The figure is about $12,100 more than what was reported in The News this week in an article about the authority’s hiring of a PR firm to do the kind of work housing authorities in Niagara Falls, Rochester and Syracuse had been handling themselves for the most part. The additional amount accounts for services that BMHA paid this year, Loh said.
Mower was hired in September 2011 under an emergency procurement policy related to the Kensington Heights development, the long-vacant eyesore visible to motorists from the nearby Kensington Expressway and Marine Drive Apartments located on the waterfront.
The housing authority’s records show that EMA performed services beyond the scope of Kensington Heights and Marine Drive.
The no-bid contract with the PR firm did not come before the board of commissioners for a vote because Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders-Garrett had the authority to hire Mower using funds designated for professional services. BMHA officials said they thought the contract amount was $25,000 a year.