OpenCDA

October 15, 2012

City to Approve Propagandist-in-Chief

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 9:57 am

At its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, October 16, the Coeur d’Alene City Council will vote to approve a contract with Kristina Lyman, its pre-selected Propagandist-in-Chief (Communications Coordinator Consultant.)

Here is a link to some of the documents Council members have been provided to help them consider this position.

There are a few interesting tidbits in the documents. 

1.  Lyman will work directly with City Administrator Wendy Gabriel who will manage Lyman’s responsibilities.

2.  At the October 8, 2012, General Services Committee meeting, Chairman Mike Kennedy offered the motion to approve the agreement with Lyman.  His motion died for lack of second by either of the other Committee members present, so the matter goes to Council without a Committee recommendation.

3.  Lyman will be an independent contractor, not a City employee.

4.  The agreement with Lyman contains a nondisparagement covenant.  This means that when Lyman realizes she’s being played like a five-string banjo by the City and she terminates the contract to save her career, she can’t blow the whistle by “intentionally mak[ing] statements materially injurious to the business reputation or good will of the City or any of its directors, its officers or employees.”

5.  The agreement with Lyman, who is being hired to enhance communications with citizens, contains a confidentiality covenant.   She will be allowed to present the propaganda approved by the City for release to the public.  Nothing else.

6.  Exhibit 1 outlines her Services, Duties, and Responsibilities.

Ms. Lyman has suitable credentials to fulfill her duties.  Somehow, I suspect the duration of her contract with the City will be measured with a stopwatch rather than a calendar.

22 Comments

  1. “The contract language was taken from LCDC when they hired their information consultant.” Are the City’s attorneys even necessary?

    Comment by up river — October 15, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  2. up river,

    Apparently not. It appears the City’s contracted attorney Mike Haman may have been right: Just like the Mayor and Council when serving as an election board of canvassers, his bosses at the City Attorney’s office can be replaced with rubber stamps, too!

    Comment by Bill — October 15, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  3. Ms. Lyman either must need the money very badly or she has no sense of self worth to agree to a contract with details like those mentioned above.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 16, 2012 @ 8:09 am

  4. For someone of an alleged Walter Crockite status and reputation to buy into this legal bribe of sorts says a lot about the person – not much – knowing that she is working off the backs of the taxpayers and all of the embezzled money that for 10 years filtered thru the expert hands of auditors and directors and elected officials. She can’t pony up enough pretty rhetoric for at least me to buy into any of her propaganda – she will be nothing but a rehearsed buffer zone for those who don’t want to take the heat because they are not only incompetent, they are cowards.

    Comment by Stebbijo — October 16, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  5. I must be missing something here Bill–if this person can only say what has been approved by “the City” why do we need her again? Wait, perhaps I found it in the Minutes from the General Services Committee, “This position will consult with the City on other important matters.” That statement alone sounds like we just hired a contract politician, and at what cost?

    Answer: $65.00 an hour. Yeh haw! I have signed several of these types of contracts with City’s and County’s for decades. The consultant Estimates that the job will take 15 hours a week. No way, not with the duties assigned and the continual foot-in-mouth politicians in CDA, but even at that, the contract would pay $50,700 a year – for a less than half-time job. And then to boot, the consultant gets to bill at .5 hour increments.

    What this really means in the consultant-world is that she can bill the City $32.50 for a 5 minute phone call. Most contracts of this nature bill at 1/10 hour increments, but as written even a one minute phone call gets billed $32.50–or if the consultant does not bill for the 5-10 minute phone call (out of generosity) from a tracking and liability standpoint, the call never happened.

    Also missing from this contract is an insurance clause. I have NEVER seen a contract with a government agency that does NOT require the contractor to purchase professional liability insurance either co-signed or verified by the public entity (client). This is a precarious ommission–especially in this type of position that has numerous legal ramifications. But then just go try and buy professional liability insurance for this specific position in this political climate, no joke, she will end-up with Lloyds of London as I was years ago with my last volatle City client.

    Continuing with fees–the consultant cannot assign ANY duties. The job description is full of relatively no-brainer task that do not require a $65 an hour consultant. You can get a damm good assistant for the more mundane tasks for $15 and hour, but no, this contract will pay $32.50 for 10 minutes of “filing.” It really begs the question why this is a contract position to begin with–to which I have seen no reasonable or sensible rationale.

    Lastly, with regard to nondisclosure – per contract the consultant cannot disclose any of the City’s “marketing strategies” or “business plans.” This is the first I have heard that the City has these plans and strategies. But even if they do, unless they are related to the aquisition of real estate, or personnel matters, or pending litigation, they are public records. So the City wants a public information coordinator who can’t, by contract, disclose public information?

    What a dismal corner the City has painted itself into.

    Comment by old dog — October 16, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  6. Sounds like the City’s will have to budget for the purchase of more paint. Also, why does the City need ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’?

    Comment by up river — October 16, 2012 @ 11:28 am

  7. old dog,

    Some City officials apparently need a Propagandist-in-Chief because telling the truth themselves is too difficult and sometimes impossible. Actually, it’s not telling the truth that would be difficult; it’s their inability to keep their deceptive stories collectively straight.

    Good catch on the lack of insurance. It’s relatively inexpensive and a very essential investment. When I was consulting, I bought my own PL/E&O insurance.

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  8. up river,

    How expensive is whitewash these days?

    The City needs Twitter and Facebook because City leaders have been told they need it. Kind of like Mortimer Snerd needed Edgar Bergen because Mortimer couldn’t think and speak for himself.

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  9. Another note (or two):

    In the terminiation clause of the proposed contract it says something to the effect that, upon terminiation–the consultant shall “return” confidential and/or proprietary information. This means that sensitive City information is leaving City Hall. Where will this sensitive information be stored if not under the guard and surveliance of City Hall?

    What happens if this information is lost, stolen, hacked into, or destroyed while in the hands of the contractor? At present, there is no safeguard, no clear, pre-defined remedy for damages, nothing, not even a requirment that the consultant be insured. This then leads to a follow-up question or five.

    Is the person being considered for the position just and individual, DBA, LLC, Inc.? What is her place of business–home, office, car, coffee shop? Does she even have a business license to operate as a consulting business in CDA? If she gets a desk and phone in City Hall, does the City get rent and other fees to cover those cost? Can the City even allow a private contractor to use City space and equipment and presumably direct City personel? The list of questions can go on and on but I don’t hear any being asked.

    I sincerely hope the City steps back a few feet and takes into consideration this seemingly open-ended, one-sided and expensive contract. It would be most ironic, yet sad, that the first task of their first professional spin master was to spin the neccesity of her job as a publicly beneficial expenditure–but then at the hourly rate and billing increments being proposed I’m guessing that argument will be milked for months–good job, now carry on to getting that Facebook page looking smart, sexy, and marketable.

    Comment by old dog — October 16, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  10. Like a dog with a bowl of catfood–can’t seem to stop.

    Couple of other notes:

    First: Under the “Work Product” clause of the proposed aggreement, it appears that the consultant CAN sub-contract for work because that clause uses the term “indirectly supplied” when referring to work product “created” by said consultant. This is a glaring internal conflict when compared to the draft agreement that prohibits the consultant from “assigning” her duties. This Work Product clause now sounds like the city has hired a PR Firm, not just a person.

    Secondly,in support of my earlier assertion that this is a one-sided contract–

    “The communications coordinator consultant is responsible for enhancing and expanding the City’s
    vision, mission and priorities through direct verbal and written communications with news medla,
    municipal officials, legislative representatives, and the community in general who inquire about the
    City’s proactive efforts.

    (Contract, EXHIBIT 1, SERVICES, DUTIES, AND RESPONSIBILITIES)

    The skewed language here relates to the last part of the sentence, “…who inquire about the City’s PROACTIVE EFFORTS”. What this means is that the new PR person and/or firm cannot communicate anything but what the City gives to her as a positive. With this contractual language, the communications coordinator is effectlivly barred from comment regarding INACTIVE EFFORTS that if addressed could lead to the betterment of the city and us taxpayers.

    A one-armed bandit at best.

    Comment by old dog — October 16, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  11. old dog,

    A close examination of many of the City’s contracts reveals the deficiencies you’ve noted, and more.

    The City’s approach to these types of contracts is to simply write anything down and put it in the file. Typically, the City and the prospective contractor have previously agreed on the outcome, so the “technicalities” in the contract are comparatively meaningless. The City and the contractor have agreed to protect each other; neither is going to challenge enforcement of the contract’s terms. We saw that in the 2009 Election Administration Agreement between the City and County. In the City’s view, the “right” people won, so the fact that the County Clerk totally defied the law and ignored many of the provisions of the contract meant nothing. That’s the way this City does business.

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

  12. I do not believe the terms of any employment contract can supersede criminal laws. Often civil laws cannot be contractually imposed upon as well. Non-compete clauses come to mind. And, as always, federal law establishes legal precedent. I hope all parties are well versed in federal civil rights laws. In the context of whistle blowing this employee or any employee can report to the authorities any breach of the law and not fear reprisal.

    Personally I’d be wary of engaging in a contract with such coercive language and imperious restrictions. This employee could become suspect in any range of secreted leaks and unduly imposed upon. Creepy stuff.

    Comment by Wallypog — October 16, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  13. Bill,

    Let me put on my bright white PR hat for a moment–you are sounding so negative and dwelling upon the past–want me to turn that frown upside down?

    O.K., that’s about as funney as I can get on a discussion blog.

    To quote a favorite song, “Just send money, goons, and lawyers”–or hopefully the City Council will ask real questions–namely and of first priority, why is this +$50K less than 1/2 time annual position being proposed as an independant contract instead of the position being proposed as a real City position? Why?

    Answer: The Mayor will need to meet with her Risk Management team again (a few times), or hire another consultant and then they’ll get back to you later than soon.

    You are preachin’ to the choir, not the flock.

    And as a side note Bill, I am most appreciative and influenced by your writing skills and demeanor. I sometimes get “slopply”, but then, I too often need to deal with those who have succombed to the idea that “…it’s close enough for government work.”

    Thanks for the consistant undertone that we can do better attitude, and articulation of facts as they are most relevant to public information.

    Comment by old dog — October 16, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  14. A very analytical view of the contract. Thank you old dog. These are the type of questions and explanations I would expect to come from the exulted Mike “$125,000/yr.” Gridely, city attorney. We have been told over and over that he is not a trial attorney but rather an accomplished administrative attorney. Sounds like he should hire old dog as a consultant.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 17, 2012 @ 9:37 am

  15. Thanks Ancient–

    But, after last nights’ hearing I am way more convinced that I should NOT be a consultant, but rather get futher away from the biz so I can really say what I think.

    First topic: Contract with political consultant–The City just hired someone at over $50K a year to work 15 hours a week. Done deal, can of worms to follow.

    Second topic: Amendment to Shoreline Regulations–The Council was led down the primrose path to believing the amendment was tied to handicap/ADA issues, yet the actual amendment says NOTHING about ADA or handicap accessibillty. Done deal, smelly can of worms to follow.

    Off topic: Always find it interesting that development code regulation questions, and/or projects in the “mill” are more often than not answered by the City Clerk, not the Planning Director standing at the podium.

    Second Off: Always find it interesting that it is the public that has to remind the Mayor and Council of their previously approved plans–to which they ignored (or were unaware) until it hits the front page.

    The City doesn’t need a budget for more paint or whitewash, what the City really needs is a window to climb out of when they finally realize they have painted the entire City into a corner with no escape. Unfortunately, by the time they realize an out, they won’t have the capital researves to even knock a hole in the wall.

    Comment by old dog — October 17, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  16. On the ‘bright’ side, now that the City has a ‘go-to’ spokesperson, hopefully the Press will stop printing a picture of Kennedy everytime it obtains information from the City.

    Comment by up river — October 17, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

  17. up river,

    As noted in the linked documents, Lyman will report to Wendy Gabriel. Thus, we can assume that any of Lyman’s work product will be favorable to Bloem, Kennedy, Goodlander, and McEvers and unfavorable to Gookin, Adams, and Edinger.

    Comment by Bill — October 17, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

  18. And/or, if the information is not “proactive” it could be easily be argued that she is in default of the terms of her contract. See paragragh 10. above for justification. Another loose, slippery contract–but, close enough for goverment work.

    And Bill, where does the contract say this person is required to report to W. Gabriel? Must have missed something. Or, the contract does not define who directs her work.

    Close enough. Oh well.

    Comment by old dog — October 17, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

  19. My Last note on this topic:

    Bill, I just re-reviewed the documents delivered to Council regarding this great new position. There is no “chain of command.” No where in the Minutes, Resolution, or Contract is it stated WHO directs her work. Or in other words another, a pull and grab job–no real boss, no heirarchy, but great idea for a Facebook page.

    Close enough, oh well, we’ll fix it later.

    Comment by old dog — October 17, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  20. old dog,

    The contract does not specify to whom she will report. However, this was the statement in the minutes of the October 8, 2012, General Services committee minutes:

    Councilman Edinger asked who would is responsible for giving the contactor the services to be performed as well as extended, modified or curtailed as stated in the agreement. Mrs. Gabriel said the contractor will work directly with her and she will manage the responsibilities.

    Gabriel reiterated that at the Tuesday, October 16 City Council meeting.

    Comment by Bill — October 17, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  21. old dog,

    Still, your observation raises a great point: Given the confidentiality covenant specified in the contract but the absence of a specific person by name or title to whom Lyman’s work is to be submitted, Lyman could technically be in violation of the contract by delivering any supposed confidential work product to anyone since no one is identified as authorized to receive delivery! And who determines what work is protected under the confidentiality agreement? Who has that authority to convey instructions to her?

    Comment by Bill — October 17, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

  22. Details, detail. Isn’t it common for written contracts to be interpreted based upon pre-contract verbal discussions? The contracting parties’ duties and obligations to each other are not meant to be clearly set forth, so that there is no question about what their agreement is, in a written agreement are they? I am glad the City did not waste its attorneys’ time on this one and instead used the LCDC contract. Their attorneys no doubt had more important things to do than oversee contracts the City was planning on entering into. Heck the attorneys probably were caught off guard, did not realize that the City was actually going to contract with someone, and did not have the time to review the contract. Oh, err…guess you two are right.

    Comment by up river — October 17, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

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