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Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to extend media consultant's contract for $150,000

Baltimore, MD-3/12/18 - Mayor Catherine Pugh delivers the State of the City Address in the City Hall council chambers. Amy Davis/ Baltimore Sun Staff Photographer - #25627
Baltimore, MD-3/12/18 - Mayor Catherine Pugh delivers the State of the City Address in the City Hall council chambers. Amy Davis/ Baltimore Sun Staff Photographer - #25627(Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Mayor Catherine Pugh plans to retain a communications consultant on a one-year, $150,000 contract after several resignations from her media group.

The city’s spending board is scheduled Wednesday to consider approving a contract with the Tucker Group, the consulting firm founded by former Transamerica spokesman Greg Tucker, to “provide for strategic consultation and tactical services for communications and the media.”

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The move comes less than two weeks after Pugh announced a new spokesman who resigned later that same day — after The Baltimore Sun asked questions about his background as a police officer.

Prior to that, Pugh spokeswoman Amanda Smith left to work in the administration’s minority business office. And Anthony McCarthy, Pugh’s former top spokesman, left in November and is now the Baltimore NAACP director.

Tucker, 55, who lives in North Baltimore, has worked as the mayor’s top media adviser since January on a three-month contract. The new contract will last until April 1, 2019.

“The strategic consultation and tactical services for communications and the media remains necessary,” states the agenda of the Board of Estimates, the spending panel controlled by Pugh. “Instead of renewing a contract every few months, the Office of the Mayor wishes to enter into a one-year agreement with the Tucker Group with the option of renewing for a second year.”

According to the agreement, Tucker would be paid $111 per hour and would work for 1,300 hours for a total pay of $144,300. He also would receive $5,700 for expenses.

Tucker would be on-call for the mayor 24 hours per day, seven days a week. He would be expected to work for about 25 hours per week, according to the board’s agenda.

Tucker said the 25-hour work week is based on a formula and is not reflective of the actual hours he will work.

At a time when reforming the Baltimore Police Department is one of her top priorities, Mayor Catherine Pugh introduced as a new spokesman  a former city police officer whose alleged conduct led to three lawsuits that cost city taxpayers nearly $80,000.

“The reality is I’m going to put in many more hours than that per week,” he said, adding that the additional hours will not result in more pay. “This is not about spin. This is about the message of Mayor Catherine Pugh being communicated effectively.”

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Tucker said he is working across agencies to make sure the mayor’s messages of “violence reduction, neighborhood investment and youth empowerment” are getting out.

“There is clear momentum in some of the critical areas the mayor has made a priority,” he said. “It’s important that we’re creating the structure and the approaches that enable us to amplify the positives and address the negatives in a way that citizens feel that the mayor has clear plans and approaches that are working.”

Tucker, who said he has lived in Baltimore since 1997, is on the board of the Living Classrooms Foundation, American Heart Association and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Last month, the city’s spending board approved adding 20 positions to various divisions in the mayor’s office, including several in communications. The move continued an expansion of the budget for the mayor’s office that began under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Pugh budgeted $8.6 million this year, an increase of $1.6 million over the previous year.

Less than two weeks ago, the Democratic mayor introduced a new spokesman at a morning event in City Hall. By that evening Darryl Strange resigned after The Sun asked about three lawsuits from Strange’s five-year career as a Baltimore police officer. The mayor said he was still being vetted.

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