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Glendening to reform awarding of ad contracts


Gov. Parris N. Glendening moved yesterday to resolve a rankling dispute within Maryland's advertising industry, promising to reform a system of awarding state advertising contracts that critics say is inconsistent and tainted by cronyism.

"My administration will . . . bring integrity and provide a level playing field," Mr. Glendening told a meeting of the Baltimore Advertising Association at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor.

He said that the state -- which spends $29 million a year on contract advertising -- will make sure all ad agencies know about future contracts, such as the bids on jobs for the Maryland Port Administration and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The state also will develop a standard request-for-proposal form and create a board of outside advertising executives that, along with state officials involved, will assess the proposals and make the award, he said.

And state agencies will give bidders at least a general idea of how much money the state plans to spend on its campaigns. In the past, some procurement officers have refused to give ad agencies any idea of the proposed budget, creating "a silly guessing game," the governor said.

In addition, Mr. Glendening said he was working with the attorney general's office to "eliminate needless audits" of ad agencies doing work for the state.

The advertising executives at the meeting said they were pleased by the governor's remarks.

"The governor is reacting to what some have seen as cronyism in the way advertising contracts have been awarded," said Sheldon Taule, senior vice president at Gray Kirk/VanSant.

Mr. Taule, who has worked for Baltimore advertising agencies for 33 years, said many local executives have long complained that they were not notified about a contract up for bid or that decisions to award contracts were based on politics rather than merit.

"He said just the right things . . . The process needed to be more professional," he said.

Tim Ayers, the state's new director of marketing, said that although he has heard charges that an old-boy network governed decisions in the past, "we are not giving credence" to them.

But he and other state officials wanted to change the way the state selects its advertising agencies "so there is not even a perception" of favoritism, he said.

In announcing the reforms, Mr. Glendening told the group that he is a fan of the advertising industry, recalling that the press had labeled him "The $6 Million Man" last year because that's what he spent on advertising during his gubernatorial campaign.

"They were correct. I would not be here today except for the advertising effort," he said.

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