Lakeland suspends contract with public relations firm - WFLA News Channel 8

Lakeland suspends contract with public relations firm

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The cost of a consistent message for the City of Lakeland has been a point of contention for weeks, and on Monday commissioners voted to suspend work from a Tampa-based public relations firm that's been charging the city thousands of dollars.

With one commissioner gone and the City Manager still on medical leave, hesitation arose about ending the contract on public relations work that has generated a lot of heat.

However, Commissioner Justin Troller was quick to say he's frustrated.

“I question some of the charges,” Troller said. “I question what we got for that, the premise they were hired, so potentially we could be asking for a refund.”

Troller says the price tag of $130,000 is outrageous.

“I didn't give a blank check, and it seems that's what they got,” he said.

But it's not just the dollar amount. Troller says he questions whether the work performed was what was approved.

When news of the big bill came out following the 2013 Lakeland Police Department sex scandal, the city spokesperson said the firm was hired to keep a consistent message.

That was particularly important, he said, because Sue Eberle, at the center of it all, was starting the process of suing the city.

“They’re writing speeches for people,” Troller said. “What was the true reason for having them, was it for one thing or was it for all kinds of issues with the police department?”

Commissioners are divided on whether they support a firm tailoring messages at all, and at what price.

“I don't think that the price tag was out of line with professional services of that caliber,” Commissioner Don Selvege said. “But I'm not ready to say we spent too much money for the services provided.”

The commission is suspending the firm's contract until the commission and the city manager can meet to discuss the contract.

City Manager Doug Thomas has yet to give his side of this story since it all came out, as he went on medical leave following a surgery.

News Channel 8 spoke to a representative from Tucker-Hall who said as part of their policy they do not comment on contracts of clients.

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