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Anaheim : Public Relations Agency Hired for Utilities Office

City Council members agreed Tuesday to spend $162,000 to hire a public relations firm for the Public Utilities Department--a move one councilman criticized as creating “a propaganda bureau.”

“That’s a ridiculous amount of money to be paying for PR,” Councilman Ben Bay said after the meeting. Bay and Mayor Don Roth voted against the proposal, while council members Irv Pickler, Lew Overholt and Miriam Kaywood voted to approve the 18-month consulting agreement with Jacqueline Schaar Associates of Newport Beach.

The $162,000 is part of an $835,814 budget for the utilities department’s “communication master plan” proposed for the next three years. The plan includes an annual report, bill inserts and newsletters, a speakers bureau, employee publications and press information packets.

Gordon Hoyt, public utilities general manager, said the consultant is needed to help implement the communications master plan. Informing customers about how to save money by shifting electrical use to off-peak hours is one example of the public relations effort, Hoyt said.

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Roth said he supported the idea but thought the price tag was too high. Bay said he would rather spend the money “to get lower rates, because that’s what people are disgruntled about.”

“This possibly may be the beginning of a policy that, when the citizens become disgruntled with some department within our bureaucracy, then we create a department to improve their image,” Bay said.


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