An international communications group is expected to win a $9 million, five-year contract to handle public relations for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, just weeks after the Authority delayed offering the contract to its first choice, a company with close ties to the Schwarzenegger administration.
The Authority's staff will recommend that the contract go to Ogilvy Public Relations, Capitol sources said Wednesday afternoon. The formal announcement was expected later in the week.
Ogilvy Managing Driector Christi Black said her frm received a letter from CHSRA staff saying they were recommending Ogilvy's proposal to the board. Black cautioned that "nothing is official yet, but it's always thrilling to get the letter of intent."
Ogilvy is a global PR firm with offices throughout California, including outposts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. The firm contracts with other state agencies including the state treasurer's office, the state auditor and the California Earthquake Authority, among others.
Jeffrey Barker, a spokesman for the authority, did not comment on the staff recommendation Wednesday, saying only that “the Authority is committed to reaching out and engaging all Californians as we plan, design and build this high-speed train system. The recommendation that we make to the Board will reflect our commitment to transparency and public information.”
In September, the Authority’s staff recommended offering the contract to Mercury Public Affairs, a firm with deep ties to Gov. Schwarzenegger. Adam Mendelsohn, a partner in the firm, served as Schwarzenegger communications director and still serves as a political adviser to the governor. Schwarzenegger’s 2006 campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, is also a partner at the firm.
Mercury withdrew from the bidding process after the commission chairman, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, asked for the bidding process to be reopened to eliminate any potential questions of favoritism.
Mercury spokesman Brian Jones earlier told the Sacramento Bee the firm was bowing out of the competition, saying the firm “decided to not to invest our time, energy or resources into a process we no longer have confidence in, nor believe in."
Staff will make the recommendation that Ogilvy be awarded the contract at the CHSRA’s next meeting on Nov. 5.