Tuesday, November 10, 2015

IPS Awarded No-Bid PR Contract To Board Members' Political Consultant

Image result for jennifer wagner images
Jennifer Wagner
In last year's contested election for seats on the Board of School Commissioners for the Indianapolis Public Schools, Advance Indiana exclusively told you how three of the successful candidates relying on out-of-state education profiteers to finance their high-dollar campaigns were all using the same political consultant, Democratic Party operative Jennifer Wagner, whose husband Gordon Hendry sits on the Indiana State Board of Education. Then-board candidates Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley and LaNier Echols collectively paid from their campaign funds more than $71,000 to Wagner's Mass Ave Public Relations to provide campaign consulting services for their school board campaigns. Advance Indiana now learns that Wagner's friends on the IPS board have rewarded her consulting firm with a $2,800 a month, no-bid public relations consulting contract.

Some question why IPS' board needs its own PR consultant when the school district already employs PR/media personnel. A year ago, IPS hired Kristin Cutler as a full-time media relations coordinator for the school system at an annual salary of $57,000. At the same time, it also hired Rhonda Akers as a full-time public relations coordinator earning $69,000 a year. And it hired Kevin Kent as an editorial content coordinator earning $60,000 a year. In the past, the IPS board relied upon IPS employees for its media relations, but that changed in August when the board without a public vote quietly awarded a 7-month contract to Wagner's firm not to exceed $21,000. It used to be IPS board policy to require formal board approval for any contract exceeding $10,000; however, following the 2014 board elections, the newly-sworn in board raised the threshold for board approval to $75,000, the amount required under state law.

Advance Indiana has learned that the IPS board's newly-installed administrator, Zach Mulholland, initiated the hiring of an outside PR consulting firm for the board at the prodding of Kelly Bentley. Mulholland recommended the hiring of Wagner's firm to the board. Mulholland, who once ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for state representative, was hired on at $100,000 a year by the board following the 2014 elections after the new board forced from their administrative positions two long-time board employees, Sharon Alvey and Rene Patton. Alvey resigned her employment with IPS altogether, while Patton was transferred to a job earning less money in IPS' human relations department.

Advance Indiana obtained a copy of Wagner's PR consulting contract, which was signed by the board's president, Diane Arnold, and the board's vice-president, Sam Odle, on August 7, 2015. Its term runs through March 7, 2015. Wagner's services are described to include "general public relations and strategic messaging support to the Board, and such other services as may be reasonably anticipated to fall within the scope thereof." IPS Board President Diane Arnold did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the Board's decision to award the contract to Wagner. To the public, Wagner's work seems to consist of attending IPS board meetings and tweeting out comments about the meetings.


38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Larry Vaughn really made that poster?

Jennifer Wagner said...

Gary, this was not a no-bid contract. There was an RFP circulated. Happy to send you a copy.

Gary R. Welsh said...

A non-public solicitation of interest is not an RFP, Jennifer.

Anonymous said...

What happened to school administrative staff providing support services for the school board? The board now needs separate staff persons and consultants to duplicate the work of the school's administrative staff?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Chicago U.S. Attorney, are you going to do anything?

Wagner and Hendry each need about a five-year jail sentence.

What saps Americans are for going to work, when you could just have political friends and steal an upper 1% income from the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Wagner, don't cross Gary. He's actually a real attorney.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wagner. You are a traitor to the people of Indiana. You stopped standing up to Daniels and you and your Repulicrat friends let him decimate Indiana! Breeder!

Anonymous said...

Why did Vaughn call Wagner "butch?"

We all know political people have very licentious personal lives. What does Vaughn know?

Gary R. Welsh said...

You would have to ask Larry. I don't know whether he actually wrote that.

Anonymous said...

Some smiles look like work.

Jennifer Wagner said...

The RFP was sent to a number of PR agencies here in town, Gary. Again, I'm happy to provide you with a copy, or you can submit another APRA request. As an IPS parent, I'm proud to work with the Commissioners and the district to help tell the story of the positive things going on in IPS right now.

To answer the question about Larry, yes, that pink paper was his doing, and he's been posting a number of versions around town that personally attack Commissioners.

Have a great night, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Wagner, what is the scope of your work? I'm at loss as to why IPS needs any PR at all other than to make themselves look good.

Anonymous said...

That I put light years more credence in Gary Welsh's words than in anything offered by this Jennifer Wagner is not my point here: what I do note is that these insiders, these cronies, these political animals of the major Parties sure must read Advance Indiana on a regular basis.

As an avid regular myself, I can see why. Politicos of all stripes may be understandably concerned that their truth will out on AI.

Keep these news reports coming, Gary! I love how uncomfortable you make the so-called elite and the privileged and the politically connected squirm. The City is cursed with too many of them.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply disappointed in attorney Zach Mulholland's actions in this affair. I remember how shabbily he was treated during his campaign to represent us on the east side but now I am wondering if it was just as well things turned out as they did. I am not accusing but I am just wondering if we have too many attorneys trying to run things they way they want to run things, procedure and law be damned (can you say DB and SB?).

As for Jennifer Wagner, she takes the easy and all too familiar road of political hacks caught in the glaring high beams... "let's talk instead about the positive things...".

Right, babe... let's NOT talk about the questionable, let's NOT talk about the possibly illegal, let's NOT talk about the truth, let's NOT talk about the obfuscation.... oh, and BTW, you have a great day ahead!

LamLawIndy said...

2 Questions...
1) Must an RFP for this type of work be published in a newspaper?
2) if so, was that done?

LamLawIndy said...

From all I've heard, seen & read, Wagner & Hendry believe deeply in public educational reform; they believe in what they're doing. I see no guile in their activities. Of course, I disagree with them on policy matters, but I don't doubt their sincerity in the education sphere.

Anonymous said...

Since when does a RFP get a targeted audience?

A RFP is put on a website with a general announcement. That's it. People are offered the ability to read the RFP on the website or at office headquarters. Providers from Hawaii to Maine are allowed to submit.

A committee to review the RFPs is selected based on absence of bias. All persons with bias are recused. All bidders that can cause bias in the selection are excluded.

I'm curious: what staff counsel or law firm prepared the RFP. What staff counsel drafted the memo authorizing a targeted distribution of the RFP?

Wagner seems to be making things worse with every post. Further, as Wagner is PR for IPS and not IPS staff, how did she know the extent of the RFP distribution? Was she involved in the targeted distribution? Did Wagner create a distribution list of vendors she knew would not compete against her?

The Attorney General needs to take a look at this and refer the matter to the prosecutor.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Professional contractors, whether legal, engineering, PR or whatever, don't have to be bid under state law. Rarely are they ever publicly bid through an RFP process. Wagner is not a PR person for IPS; she's hired as a PR person for the elected board members. That's the rub. IPS already has a PR staff. Why does the board need its own PR person other than to promote their work in between election cycles. The political types in Indiana, Carlos, use education reform as shorthand for personal profiteering. Education reform is returning big dividends for the Hendry/Wagner household. Do you get paid to support "education reform"? All but one of the elected board members of IPS are bought and paid for by the education profiteers. One of the board members, Caitlin Hannon, was already on their payroll. Her support of their agenda landed her an even bigger paying job that forced her to resign her board position for a job financed by the Mind Trust, which is nothing but a money laundering operation for these for-profit education profiteers.

Anonymous said...

So... LamLawIndy... what you are saying is that if one believes deeply in a cause and if one believes deeply in what they are doing... going against protocol, breaking laws, or acting without any legal authority should be perfectly "all right" and acceptable?

Would you say that because corrupt Republican Mayor Greg Ballard may have "believed deeply" in his many illegal and criminal deals (e.g.: Vision Fleet or Blue Indy- only two most recent examples) we should simply give this ex-soldier a pass on the tax credits and physical property converted to a foreign billionaire's corporatist goals. the unilateral (for our City Councilors, that means "one-sided") award of a MONOPOLY (something Democrats used to rail against but now seem to meekly accept) instead of demanding that he be hauled before a Grand Jury and tried before a Court of taxpayer peers?

Wow... just wow. The argument that someone believed and tried just doesn't cut it... and is in fact a guile to change the subject.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't assert there was anything illegal about the manner in which the contract was entered. Again, Indiana law permits the awarding of professional contracts like these through any or no public bidding process. That's why they often look smelly, even if not illegal, because they appear meant to reward friends and political supporters. Once upon a time, school board members spent nothing on their campaigns. Times have changed. They have become high dollar affairs financed in large part by out-of-state interests looking to profiteer from policy changes billed as education reform. Wagner was hired to provide campaign consulting work for three of the current board members whose campaigns were financed by the education profiteers and then rewarded with a PR contract by those same board members after they won election to the board. We're seeing the same political cronyism that has existed in state and local government now creeping into the public school system.

Anonymous said...

Where is that new hope for IPS they hired to fix the stunning lack of education progress? The Board who hired him also blew this money. The expenses are of no benefit at all to IPS or to taxpayers or to students. When IPS next opens their mouths about needing money....close your ears to their mis management.
Maybe some examination of the Phony PHD they hired from Indiana's largest diploma mill, the guy who plagurized his whole doctoral thesis and IT WAS MISSED by the reviewers would be in order. And, a review of all such degree holders from that hell hole would also be in order letting the chips fall where they might. IPS management stinks now, stinks then, and has long stunk. I'd be interested to see the brand of whitewash the current superintendent uses when asked about Jen's rip off and, of course, one wonders why her mate is a Pence appointee (more black marks for Mike's judgement).

Anonymous said...

I'll admit my experience is more with State level Boards, but I do think there's an argument for Boards, particularly when they're regulating or monitoring an agency that has its own staff, to employ an independent staff. Boards generally face the charge that they're merely following whatever the agency wants to do, and that does happen. It happens for two reasons - first the flow of information, absent an independent staff, comes exclusively from the agency, so the Board ends up primarily hearing the agency's best argument for what it wanted to do in the first place and the usually disjointed public commentary in opposition. Second, and this might be applicable to what you're discussing, a good, and informed, Board will sometimes reach a conclusion that's at odds with the agency. If the PR staff resides exclusively with the agency, it would seem to have a substantial advantage in swaying public opinion in its favor.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The Board hires the Superintendent and approves his budget, staffing and contractual needs. If the Board believes the Superintendent is misleading it, then it needs a new Superintendent, not its own staff. That's the way schools have operated forever. It's only a recent development that school boards seem to think they need to have a competing staff to drive up taxpayer costs even more. The board of directors of a corporation rely on their CEO and his staff. It the board doesn't trust the information he/she is providing the board to make the best informed decisions, it fires him/her.

Anonymous said...

Just because an agency doesn't have to put a contract up for RFP doesn't mean they get to write contracts for their cronies for work that doesn't need to be done or can't be done cheaper.

That's fraud.

Anonymous said...

I'm a liberal Democrat. But people like Jennifer Wagner and her husband, Gordon, make me sick. It goes to show how corrupt the State Democratic Party is when they continue to tout Ms. Wagner and her ilk. Besides, I question Ms. Wagner's politics. Democrats stand firmly in support of our public schools, not the charter school privateers. Unfortunately, these criminals will have full run of the house after Hogsett takes control on 1 January. And, Terry Curry will turn a blind-eye just as he has done with other public officials - Democrats and Republicans.

Anonymous said...

With the recent adoption by the IPS board of an 'autonomous school framework', the groundwork is being laid for the eventual collapse of the traditional centralized education system into privately managed entities and charter school creation. Judging by the outside money funneled into the last school board election, by outside groups who field candidates with charter school backgrounds, there will be an accelerated pace to partner with charter schools on the sharing of IPS facilities and providing transportation while IPS receives nothing in return. Eventually, privatization will put vast sums of tax payer money into the hands of those who's goals are to increase the bottom line and park lobbyists at the government's door. This is not just an experiment. This is a process that once achieved can never be reversed.

Anonymous said...

I support the efforts of Jennifer and those amongst her cadre of "associates". One should always use networks to line one's own pockets. The children of IPS don't count. Why should they? Their parents are not members of the political class--and those are the only people that really matter.


Look,charter schools are the future. Who cares about the children? I don't. What's important is that the public school system is totally dismantled (besides the kids attending IPS will never be the movers and shakers of our world class city) so a very few can make a lot of money subsequent and during the transition.


C'mon.....What's more important? Our bank accounts and the accumulation of wealth or the future of ordinary children from meager backgrounds?

Jennifer,you go girl!!

Anonymous said...

When Democrats begin to criticize one of their own... something very rare in that Party.... you know this Wagner chick is in trouble.

Jenn Wagner seems to be staining her Democrat political comrades in the way corrupt Repu8blican Greg Ballard has severely negatively stained and ruined Marion County GOP politicians for years to come.

LamLawIndy said...

Anon733, I am not contending that anybody's deep belief in a cause absolves him or her of any wrongdoing. My point is that I take issue with any intimation that Wagner & Hendry are pushing public education reform solely for pecuniary gain. I believe that they are making money from engaging in advocacy that they truly believe in. Likewise, their actions are in no way illegal, as Gary has advised.

LamLawIndy said...

Anon948, Democrats used to support public schools 100%, but political parties change. After all, Democrats used to also support real money (Andrew Jackson killed the 2nd Bank of the United States) but -- like their GOP bretheren -- no longer do so.

Anonymous said...

Once a hack...always a hack. No wonder our city is in shambles.

Melyssa Hubbard said...

Wagner is the woman who branded Indianapolis taxpayers with the derogatory sexual term 'teabaggers'. Hers is the first reference in American Culture. It stuck.

Our movement went on to keep thousands of Hoosiers (and their children) in their homes. So far it moved about $4 billion back to homeowners.

I have no idea if IPS knows the head of their new PR firm once labeled taxpaying Hoosier families with a derogatory sexual term used primarily by gay men.

I hope she uses better judgment when representing IPS children and their families.

SEE THIS LINK:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1644335039140890&set=a.1384230041818059.1073741828.100006932291195&type=3&theater

Anonymous said...

Funny to see uber hack Jennifer Wagner being lectured by another party hack for using derogatory speech. Me. Hubbard has a very long history of intolerance and use of vile speech towards others. One would think that she and Miss Wagner would get along better. Wagner is a phoney populist and Hubbard is a fake Tea Party member.

DKP said...

So quick question: if this firm was hired to be PR for the board members, is the money spent on the contract coming from the IPS budget or are the individual board members paying the PR firm? Do school board members have a "budget" so to speak within the IPS budget that they can spend money from? If the board members hired this firm to represent THEM and be their voice, I am confused why IPS funds are being used to do this and where is this money coming from in the IPS budget?

Anonymous said...

People like Wagner and Hendry are the reasons Republicans have a 71-29 House and 40-10 Senate majority. No wonder Pence wanted Hendry. He and Wagner are the greatest thing going for Republicans.

Anonymous said...

It's yet another step in turning IPS into anything but PUBLIC schools. They are going to be sold off to the highest bidder or the biggest special interest.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I'm still waiting for the RFP Wagner claims exists.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who is "deeply disappointed in Zach Mulholland's actions in this affair".

From this article, Wagner states, "Zach Mulholland, initiated the hiring of an outside PR consulting firm for the board at the prodding of Kelly Bentley. Mulholland recommended the hiring of Wagner's firm to the board."

The key word is PRODDING. Mulholland was asked if he knew of an outside PR consulting firm and gave a name. That is the extent of the "initiating of the hiring".

If you are deeply disappointed in someone answering a question...well, then you are in for a life of disappointment.