Cleveland City Council to Renew Big Contracts with Familiar Consultants

click to enlarge Cleveland City Council on a neighborhood tour in June, 2016. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Cleveland City Council on a neighborhood tour in June, 2016.
Cleveland City Council will pass, as emergency ordinances, seven pieces of legislation Monday night that will renew contracts for consulting work and other professional services. 

The ordinances will greenlight yearlong commitments to the following folks: a project manager, a public relations guru, a CPA, a lobbying firm, an IT firm, a public utilities consultant and Jim Rokakis' Thriving Communities Institute.

The discussion about the contracts at Monday's finance committee meeting was limited. Only Councilman Mike Polensek asked questions about them in detail.

At last week's meeting, some council members' wanted to know how the firms had been selected. So this afternoon, Shameka Jones Taylor, City Council's CFO, described the process. She said the city's entire network of contractors had been relentlessly pursued and duly notified of the opportunity to bid on the proposed work. Once proposals had been submitted, Council's finance team provided recommendations to the operations committee (chaired by the lately booted Terrell Pruiit), which ok'ed the selected firms, all seven of which were awarded contracts last year.

Jones Taylor said that in at least one instance, more than one firm bid on the contract, but it wasn't clear how many were scored and debated by the operations committee. At last week's finance meeting, Councilman Matt Zone said firms had been scored on a "matrix." Council members asked to see the alleged matrix, but only the contracts themselves were provided. 

Here are the victorious firms in question and their work, in broad strokes:
  • The Cobalt Group: Patti Choby will provide project management support to Clerk of Council Pat Britt for $66,000.
  • Mita Marketing: Mary Anne Sharkey will provide public relations expertise and big-picture communications strategy to council and its communications team for $60,000.
  • Western Reserve Land Conservancy: Former Councilman Jim Rokakis and his Thriving Communities Institute will "continue to work" in the areas of reforestation, demolition funding, code enforcement, green space and property information for $150,000. 
  • The Batchelder Group: The lobbying firm will monitor statewide politics and make legislative recommendations for $48,000, (a $4,000 monthly retainer). 
  • Guy Gadomski, CPA: Among other things, Gadomski will provide monthly budget reviews and analysis for $50,000. 
  • On Technology Partners: The IT firm will provide network support and general assistance to council's IT staff for $80,000. 
  • The Project Group: Former City Councilman John Zayac and his team will provide regular updates, including two semi-annual reports, on "utility-related matters," for $200,000. 

    Correction: In all of the above, the listed amounts are the maximum value of the contract. The Project's Group's contract is "not to exceed" $200,000, for example. In all but the Batchelder Group's, money will be paid based on hourly invoicing. City Council said that in years' past, some contracts have come in less than the allotted value.**
Councilman Polensek, in wide-ranging remarks, said that he hoped in the coming year, council could inspire these consultants to "really drill down" on their research to help city council improve the city in areas of need. And he said council, in general, ought to challenge the Mayor and his administration much more vocally.

"We will make the Jackson administration a better administration if we do our job on this side of the table," he said. "You can talk about George Voinovich and Mike White all you want, but they knew they were gonna get challenged. And if we don't get back to that, we're not benefiting Mayor Jackson and we're not benefiting our citizens ... I believe he will rise to the occasion if he's challenged. That's what I'm hoping for." 
(You can see the contracts, and the full scope of the consultants' work, in the PDF below.)

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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