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Ohio State mum on how much it pays PR firms

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Ohio State has held contracts with at least two public relations firms this year, but it’s unclear how much those firms were paid. Both of the contracts were in effect when former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters was fired.

The university entered a contract with Atlanta-based Paradigm Four Inc. for “advice, strategies and consultations in regards to communication, media relations and messaging,” or other areas as decided on by President Michael Drake or OSU’s general counsel, according to the contract, provided to The Lantern on Nov. 25 to fill an Oct. 9 records request. The contract’s term ran from July 13 to Oct. 12.

The contract required that Paradigm Four CEO and President Brian Curtis be the exclusive person providing the services. It left open the option for further consulting work, to be paid for by an additional fee, the amount of which was not disclosed.

The amount of the contract was redacted because of trade secrets. It was paid by one sum for the first 30 days and then a flat fee for the following two months. Curtis was also entitled to reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses like meeting room costs and travel expenses.

Paradigm Four did not return calls or emails requesting comment.

Paradigm Four works with “institutions, athletic departments and businesses on leadership, teambuilding, messaging and crisis communication,” according to “From the Field to the Firm,” a leadership program. Curtis has written two books and was a college basketball and football reporter for CSTV/CBS College Sports with previous broadcast reporting experience as well.

The firm was selected for its “strong national reputation,” OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email, and there was no competitive bid process.

During the time the contract was in effect, Waters was dismissed after an OSU investigation found there was a “sexualized culture” within the band that he was aware of or reasonably should have been aware of and didn’t do enough to stop.

That dismissal on July 24 led to a flurry of public attention, ranging from Waters appearing on talk shows like “TODAY” and “Good Morning America,” to supporters of his protesting at an OSU Board of Trustees meeting, to Waters’ announcement that he would sue the university on the basis of gender discrimination and not being granted due process.

Paradigm Four is not the only public relations firm OSU has worked with this year. It’s been paying firm Edelman off and on since February 2013.

The university authorized Edelman to “provide strategic counsel and work” to the Board of Trustees at the direction of general counsel in February 2013, according to the letter of agreement. The hourly billing rates for Edelman were redacted, though.

More recently, the university extended its agreement with Edelman in January for the period of Feb. 1 through July 31. The standard hourly billing rates were redacted in those letters as well.

When providing the Edelman contract to The Lantern, OSU included a letter that stated other than the Edelman and Paradigm Four contracts, it was unable to “identify other agreements with public relations firms that would be responsive to (The Lantern’s) request.”

But, it added, according to OSU Purchasing — which has the authority to acquire equipment, materials, supplies and services for the university, according to its website — those might not be the only public relations-related agreements.

“Services of this nature could be classified in any one of four different categories. Identifying the records of interest to you would necessitate a review of individual contracts and/or purchase orders within each of these categories to determine if the service provided was indeed for ‘public relations,’” the letter said. “The Public Records law does not require a public office to conduct a search for records containing selected information.”

10 comments

  1. Based on the current public image of Ohio State University (down to 1.5 starts on Facebook) I would say that OSU should be hiring new PR firms. The two they have failed miserably to help OSU avoid being galactically stupid.

  2. Look at the official Facebook page. They’re at 4.5 stars. Seems like you’re the one galatically stupid.
    https://www.facebook.com/osu?sk=reviews

  3. What are we trying to hide? Share what we spend what is the big deal.

  4. I think Doug meant the Ohio State Alumni page.
    https://www.facebook.com/OSUAA?sk=reviews

  5. So if they pay a PR firm more, does the turd get shinier? I say that OSU should pay their PR firm at least as much as they pay their overpaid and clueless executives. The turds mush shine!!

  6. Concerned Band Parent

    In defense of Doug Hall, the rating was down to 1.5 – obviously the high priced PR firms have used their powers to likely pay a ton of people to generate high rankings to counter the disgust 1 ratings generated by the Waters’ firing, the abuse of current band members and defamation of TBDBITL alumni – especially those whose personally identifiable information was sacrificed without permission in the Glaros Report and revelation of the Men of T Row Calendar without necessity. Bravo Huh? Must be pretty smugly proud of your asshat self. Clap. Clap. Clap.

  7. The OSU administration is mum about lots of things. President Drake has ordered the alumni chapters not to discuss the Jon Waters situation through his minion Archie Griffin, CEO and President of the OSUAA. Present band members are not talking to the media and Dr. Drake is dodging the press like the plague. NBC4 has pursued the president for months and managed to catch up with him on a couple of occasions: Here is part of one exchange:

    Question: “You stand by your decision to let Waters go?”

    Drake: “We’re not talking about that today. Let me say, I made a statement, which you all have seen, and you should review that and review the report, and I think that’s where we are on that. Thank you.”

    If you want to see more of Dr Drake’s denials, Google:
    “Ohio State President Dodges Questions About TBDBITL Firing”

    This is a sad state of affairs. The damage being done to a great university is huge. One-hundred-fifty-million dollars of contributions are on hold because Dr. Drake refuses to be reasonable in the eyes of one major university benefactor and there are plenty more contributions being lost as well. However, the real tragedy is the public humiliation of the members and alumni of the marching band whose reputations are being senselessly dragged through the mud to get past a Title IV issue.

  8. As a clarification, I was referring to the puppet organization that is the Ohio State University Alumni Association. Their Facebook rating is 1.5 stars.

  9. How can a public institution like OSU redact an amount paid as “trade secrets?” It is/was a fee for services provided. What do some of you alum attorneys say about this redaction?

  10. The Real Ohio State, Inc (tm)

    What? A lack of transparency from the University? Trade secrets? I’m shocked.

    Ohio State is a public university in name only.

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