Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office plans to re-up its contract with local public relations pro Gregory Tucker, at a cost of $150,000 to taxpayers over the next year.
Tucker’s relatively new PR firm, The Tucker Group, is just about to finish out a three-month, $40,000 contract with the city on March 31. However, “the strategic consultation and tactical services for communications and the media remains necessary,” says a Board of Estimates agenda for this week. “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.”
Tucker’s firm is being paid $240 an hour from Jan. 1 through this month, but would receive a lower rate of $111 an hour for 25 hours a week—$144,300 over 1,300 budgeted hours over the next year—under the new contract. The company is alloted an “additional allowance of $5,700.00 for expenses,” bringing the total sum to $150,000.
The agreement would run for 12 months starting April 1, assuming it’s approved by Pugh herself and the rest of the city’s spending board this Wednesday. Tucker would remain on-call seven days a week.
As previously noted by the Baltimore Brew, which first reported Tucker’s initial consulting contract with Pugh’s office in January, his name began popping up on in local social media circles with praise-filled messages about the mayor at the start of the year. State business records indicate he formed “The Tucker Group, LLC” on Jan. 1.
The mayor’s office released a series of marketing videos shortly after he began his consulting work for Pugh, though James Bentley, a spokesman with Pugh’s office, told Baltimore Fishbowl Monday that Tucker was not involved in the videos. One showed her yelling at a squeegee boy, “Go to school, NOW!”; in another, she went to the boy’s school and encouraged him to sign up for the city’s Youth Works summer jobs program. (Pugh has since divulged more about the teen, noting in her recent “State of the City” speech that his mother is addicted to drugs and homeless, and that he’s now in foster care.)
Tucker previously served for five years in a top corporate communications position for Transamerica, according to his LinkedIn page. Before that, he worked for another life insurance and financial-asset management company, Aegon, as well the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Basilica of the National Shrine and on Capitol Hill.
Asked what tasks he’s accomplished for Pugh so far, and what he’s eyeing for the next year, Tucker responded in a message: “Like all Baltimore City residents, I think it’s vital to have clear insight into how the critical issues confronting Baltimore are being addressed by Mayor Pugh and her Administration. Bureaucracies aren’t typically known for the type of robust and real-time communications that people need and expect in today’s environment. Press releases no longer suffice.”
“We need to optimize fully the many channels available to engage City residents, our youth, the business community and community groups in the conversation,” he added. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Mayor Pugh, as well as her Cabinet and the public information officers across City agencies, to implement strategies and approaches that will enable citizens to have far greater clarity about this Administration’s key initiatives underway to move Baltimore forward.”
The mayor’s office also didn’t offer many specifics. Asked for details on Tucker’s consulting duties, Bentley wrote in an email that he “is being further engaged by the Mayor in his role to develop and help implement a strategic communications platform and approach for the City of Baltimore,” and is working “across agencies to identify efficiencies and approaches that will prove effective in amplifying the Administration’s priorities, drive alignment and highlight proof points that demonstrate progress on the critical issues facing Baltimore and important to all citizens.”
Tucker is also working with the mayor’s digital engagement manager “to ensure effective optimization of online channels for communication and engagement with all stakeholders,” Bentley said.
The mayor’s communications team has morphed over the last several months, first with the late November departure of spokesman and Rawlings-Blake administration holdover Anthony McCarthy, and then with the shift of interim communications director Amanda Rodrigues-Smith in early March to a new role in the Mayor’s Office of Small, Minority and Women Owned Business Development. Bentley, Pugh’s deputy press secretary, was elevated to the role of spokesman amid Rodrigues-Smith’s switch.
Also in March, a newly hired spokesperson, Darryl Strange, resigned from Pugh’s office after a half-day on the job after The Sun revealed he was involved in three lawsuits as a Baltimore police officer that cost taxpayers around $80,000.
Shortly after Tucker began working for Pugh, the mayor’s office was approved to open six new communications-related jobs, ranging from social media strategists to a deputy communications director. The combined cost of the new positions could be anywhere from $319,000 to about $511,000, based on their salary ranges.
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