Hey Brighton, would it surprise you to learn that in just the first six weeks of the recall effort, the City of Brighton spent $21,000 of your tax dollars to help Mayor Ken hide from the fallout of his retaliatory termination of Philip Rodriguez, and illegally fight our recall effort on Mayor Ken’s behalf?
Would it surprise you to learn that the very first thing Acting City Manager Marv Falconburg (Mayor Ken’s preferred choice to replace Rodriguez) did, the day after Rodriguez was unjustly fired and the recall campaign began, was to hire a public relations and crisis management firm to handle the city’s response to Mayor Ken’s disastrous and arrogant lack of leadership?
Would it surprise you to learn that this firm was hired without a formal bidding process, even informing all of city council, or any funds set aside in the city budget for an outside PR firm?
While our recall effort was busy with a grassroots effort to get enough signatures to put the question of Mayor Ken’s recall to a free and fair vote of the residents, the City of Brighton was busy spending almost $4,000 a week on a public relations consultant to monitor us, teach city staff how to look believable and “transparent”, and to expertly craft messages to us to tell us how we ought to feel about Mayor Ken and the city government.
Nearly every news article, social media post, city circular (like the preposterous and thoroughly debunked Water Q&A flier), smiling video, and photo op was meticulously (and expensively) planned.
Every city communication’s wording and phrasing were studied, edited, and strategically placed. All of your reactions were carefully monitored as well.
The city spends hours every week in meetings with this company (at our expense), taking explicit direction, rehearsing prepared scripts, and implementing every recommendation. In effect, the City of Brighton is currently being run by an outside company.
All of it is to help Mayor Ken and the city he led into chaos, save face and keep his part-time job. And our tax dollars pay for it.
On July 17, the day after Philip Rodriguez was fired in the explosive City Council meeting (and our recall campaign began in the parking lot of City Hall), newly Acting City Manager Marv Falconburg hired Peter Webb Public Relations, Inc. dba Webb Strategic Communications, a local PR firm specializing in crisis management.
The only “crisis” Brighton was facing on July 17 was of Mayor Ken’s doing. He had pushed for the suspension and termination of Philip Rodriguez after Rodriguez made all of us aware of the problems in our utility department on July 2. The recall effort began because of Mayor Ken’s insistence that Rodriguez be terminated without cause or justification after he “blew the whistle” on the city’s serious operational and financial problems.
Despite the City having its own Communications & Engagement Department that is budgeted at $500,000 every year for city communications, Mr. Falconburg hired Webb without going through a formal bidding process or even having money budgeted for such an extra expense. The contract between the City of Brighton and Webb is shown here.
(And lest anyone say this is an ongoing contract and it’s really about helping improve city messaging long-term, this firm was only hired for 90 days, and their contract expires the weekend before ballots arrive in our mailboxes.)
Webb went to work immediately by first creating the silly, debunked “City BBQ Flier” that still circulates with slightly modified language today in city offices. That circular made its appearance at the Citywide BBQ on July 18.
But it didn’t stop there.
The invoices the city have paid so far, dated 8/5/2019 and 9/5/2019, show several instances where Webb specifically addressed the recall effort with city leaders, including “the city’s role” in the anti-recall effort, and coordinated both local news stories and nearly every social media post about the utilities department, the backflow prevention inspection failures, the EPA violations, and more.
- Have you heard the talking points against the recall, or saw long social media posts supposedly filled with “facts” and written by “concerned residents”? Those were very likely the result of your own tax dollars being used to work against this citizen-led effort. That’s what Webb claims, and billed the City for.
- Did you hear the “everything is okay in Brighton” spin from the city leaders, or the, “it was only paperwork that caused the EPA violations” rhetoric? Yep, you paid for it.
- Did you notice the “Coffees with Marv” (where Mayor Ken loved hanging out), the video tours of the water plant, and all the new talk of transparency (even though they hid the backflow prevention problem for two months before telling us)? You paid a PR firm to create all of it.
In just the first six weeks of this recall effort, from July 17 to September 5, the city of Brighton spent $20,996.41 of OUR TAX DOLLARS to fight it on behalf of Mayor Ken.
Some of what you’ll see in these invoices will shock you:
- The entire messaging strategy and talking points about our city’s utility problems, that we all assumed were fellow residents posting on social media, have been carefully crafted by this PR firm.
- The recall effort was discussed several times on different dates, including the city government’s role in fighting the recall.
- Webb claims to have coached certain city council members on various talking points and communication strategies. Which council members were coached by this firm remains to be seen, but we know not all council members were even aware of this firm or its ties to the City of Brighton.
- This firm claims to have coached city employees on the information they would present to city council in study sessions and council meetings. It means, then, that our own elected leaders may not have been given the truth on everything they were expected to vote on, but instead were given a preplanned “messaging” campaign.
- Any opposition to their official messaging is called “misinformation” that must be aggressively challenged.
- The Brighton Blade was apparently considered a friendly media source and was cultivated with stories, sent corrections, offered exclusive (rehearsed) interviews, and even fed talking points. In fact, Webb instructed the city to push back hard on some media outlets and woo others. (You can likely tell by seeing which ones are unusually supportive of the city government. The Blade’s even made City Hall its Facebook cover photo for weeks during this exact period of time.)
- All of your online comments and reactions to revelations of the city’s problems or the recall were carefully studied and discussed at City Hall, not to actually listen to your concerns, but to craft “messaging” to quell them.
- Mr. Falconburg got training on how to act for the media and was coached for days before being interviewed, even by our local paper. They also crafted his letter to a major news channel to complain about their reporting, effectively speaking on behalf of our own city manager.
We encourage you to read for yourself how much this firm has worked to help Mayor Ken and the City of Brighton manipulate you. And you paid for it.
And the worst part is, Webb Strategic Communications is still working for the City of Brighton right now.
Even as we write this post, there are eyes watching to see what the City should say to you next, and what information you need to be “fed”, and how the recall effort can be discredited as spreading “misinformation”. We’re sure a response of some sort to either deny or play down this newest city scandal will shortly follow this update to the residents, likely from the same “concerned citizens” who have been posting the talking points all along.
As families in Brighton endure extremely high water bills and questionable water quality, what is the City of Brighton doing?
Spending your money to try to make you believe in the fiction that absolutely nothing is wrong.
What have they done so far to help your family and your high utility bills? According to the City, about 900 families received about $3 each after years of overcharges due to their tiered water structure and long billing cycles.
That’s $2,700 back – maybe – to the 40,000 residents they gouged for nearly a decade.
But they had no problem spending $21,000 – without a bid and without the full council’s knowledge – to a public relations company in just six weeks, to tell you, “there’s nothing to see here.”
What we’ve shown you is just through September 5. Another full month has already happened. You are still paying for Webb Strategic Communications to help Mayor Ken and City Hall fight his recall.
We will update this post when we receive the most recent invoice the city pays to Webb to continue to fight this recall effort – with your tax dollars.
We’ve also demanded through a CORA request, every internal communication the city leaders have had with and about this PR firm, and we will present that information, as well.
While Brighton families struggle with high water bills, the City of Brighton is spending nearly $4,000 a week – of our money – to fight the recall effort on behalf of Mayor Ken. In no way is this proper, ethical, or even legal.
Enough, Brighton. We can stop this corruption. It’s time.
VOTE YES on November 5.