After controversy over its payment of more than $100,000 to a public relations firm for crisis management and communications work, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority was ready Tuesday to vote on a proposal to switch from a no-bid contract to soliciting multiple proposals at a much lower cost. The decision will have to wait, because Tuesday’s meeting was canceled when not enough members could attend.
But when commissioners do convene, they are expected to vote on seeking a public relations consultant at a cost of no more than $35,000 a year.
That’s in contrast to the more than $100,000 paid to Eric Mower & Associates from 2011 through May of this year to do work that ranged from crisis management to routine communications services like writing and editing news releases. The Buffalo News uncovered those payments earlier this year through a Freedom of Information Law filing.
Subsequently, the Housing Authority executive staff decided to bid out the work to a public relations firm or consultant for up $75,000 a year, according to tenant-elected Commissioner Joseph Mascia.
A request for proposals was issued in May, but all five proposals that came in were rejected because the prices were too high, Mascia said. Mower decided not to seek the new contract.
After the costs came in too high, the executive staff changed the parameters of the request for proposals, eliminating some of the duties to lower the price to $35,000, and then forwarded the new proposal to the board’s operations committee, Mascia said.
After a review, the committee voted to recommend that commissioners approve a measure setting the $35,000 cap and giving Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett the authority to negotiate and enter into a contract with a public relations firm or consultant for a minimum of one year at a price not to exceed that cap.
“That’s the maximum they can spend without coming to the board for approval,” Mascia said.
Meanwhile, the canceled board meeting will be rescheduled for some time next week, because three of the six commissioners were unable to attend, Mascia said, leaving the board short of a quorum.
Mayor Byron W. Brown has not filled the board’s seventh seat, one of five that is filled by the mayor. The other two commissioners are elected by Housing Authority tenants.