City hires specialist, firm for consulting

Cryor to overhaul mayor's communications office

$100,000 PR salary criticized

Others to focus on revising police reorganization plan

March 13, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates hired two consultants yesterday to craft new plans for fighting crime and for promoting a positive image of city government under Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Under one contract, the city will pay $90,000 to Linder & Associates to revise the plan developed three years ago to reorganize the Police Department.

The second contract will pay up to $100,000 for public relations specialist Michael Cryor to overhaul the mayor's communications office.

"Part of the long-term strategy here is to make the city grow and to do that you have to be able to communicate that the product improvement is taking place," O'Malley said. "We haven't been doing as good a job of that."

The city has paid Cryor about $45,000 since November to begin the work of helping O'Malley's staff improve the information it provides to the public and media. Under that prior contract, Cryor earned $125 an hour.

Cryor's new contract, which lasts through August, pays $150 an hour, but cannot exceed $100,000. Since November, Cryor, a former co-chairman of the Baltimore Believe campaign, has reshuffled O'Malley's public information staff and led the search to hire his new press secretary, Raquel Guillory, and her assistant, Rick Abbruzzese.

Three employees work in the mayor's public information office, while more than two dozen public information employees handle the job for the city's other agencies. Cryor said a communications director may need to be hired to oversee the entire operation.

O'Malley was quick to assert that his public information staff is smaller than former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's staff.

"Schmoke had four speechwriters," said O'Malley, who later acknowledged he was not positive about the assertion.

Clinton R. Coleman, Schmoke's former press secretary, said O'Malley's memory is incorrect. He said Schmoke employed a full-time and part-time speech writer in addition to a deputy press secretary.

"I always argued for more employees for public information," said Coleman, now director of communications for Morgan State University.

Two City Council members raised questions about the public relations spending.

"I'm not a public relations expert, but $100,000 sounds like a lot to me," said Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch. "I wish I had a little bit of that for my office."

Cryor said he will not work long enough to bill that much. But Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. said that if Cryor does work through August "he will be making just as much as the police commissioner when he's done."

Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark earns a salary of $150,000.

O'Malley said delivering a consistent message to the public was crucial to promoting city government accomplishments, especially those of the Police Department.

The contract with Linder & Associates gives the firm six months to draft a plan that reflects Clark's top priority: attacking open-air drug markets.

Linder drafted a similar plan three years ago, which O'Malley said helped police reduce violent crime by 30 percent. Linder also developed and implemented the Believe campaign.

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