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.”