ODOT pulls back on consulting contract

The Ohio Department of Transportation pulled back on a request for Controlling Board approval, saying it needs to answer lawmaker questions before deciding whether to proceed with the deal. The board was scheduled to consider the deal on Monday.

The proposal called for Strategic Public Partners Group to handle public relations for highway construction projects managed by the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to state records.

Nine PR firms bid for the work and six were interviewed.

Strategic Public Partners Group’s political action committee gave a maximum contribution — $12,156 — to Gov. John Kasich’s campaign committee in May. Leaders in the company have worked to elect Republicans including George W. Bush, Herman Cain, John McCain, Rob Portman, Josh Mandel, Kasich, J. Kenneth Blackwell and Florida politicians Rick Scott, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, according to the SPPG website.

The firm had planned on subcontracting the majority of the work with five other firms.

ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner said contractors on state highway projects are already required to do public relations and community outreach work. Instead of having each vendor handle those tasks, ODOT was considering hiring a PR consultant to do them, he said.

When asked why ODOT picked a firm with such GOP connections, Faulkner said Strategic Public Partners Group has the knowledge and experience to handle the job.

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