One company has been dismissed from the competitive bidding for Ocean City government’s marketing business next year following officials’ discover that a consultant working with the city’s tourism department is married to an individual at the agency.
City Manager Doug Miller said last week that Baltimore-based TBC Inc. was no longer in the running as a potential advertising company.
Ocean City officials began their hunt for a new advertising company this month, accepting 10 bids in response to a request for proposals from companies across the country.
The companies that submitted bids included Mariner Marketing out of Columbia, Maryland, TBC Inc., Harvey Agency of Baltimore, Glen Burnie-based Integrated Designs, which has worked on the Walksmart Ocean City campaign, and Fuse Ideas out of Boston, Massachusetts.
Some of the other agencies are Beyond Spots and Dots, Paradise Advertising, and the Bellweather Agency.
Owings Mills, Maryland-based MGH Advertising Inc., which has worked with Ocean City for the past 20 years, did not submit a bid, even though the resort’s Director of Tourism and Business Development, Tom Perlozzo, said they had an edge because the team knew the product.
When the bids were announced on Nov. 3, Miller opened them up and Council Secretary Tony DeLuca read the names of the companies into the record without the bid amounts.
Following the meeting, Miller said the dollar amounts for each bid was omitted because it was proprietary information. When asked who would sit on the reviews of the bids, the city manager said Perlozzo, Director of Communications Jessica Waters and members of the tourism commission.
When asked how members of the tourism commission could sit on the reviews and see the bids, even though they were members of the public, Miller said he would check with City Solicitor Heather Stansbury.
No answer was ever given on the matter, though when revisited last week, Miller said the bids would be reviewed by Perlozzo, Waters, and Andrea Vernot of Choptank Communications.
Vernot was brought on by the city in a consultant role to help develop a strategic strategy and rebrand the resort.
The issue, as discovered last week, was Vernot is married to Brent Burkhardt whose LinkedIn profile not only has him listed in a public relations role for Choptank, but also as an executive for TBC.
Miller said he had not been aware of the connection, but had the matter investigated and called a meeting for Thursday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m.
Council President Matt James, Mayor Rick Meehan, Miller, Perlozzo, and Waters met to discuss the situation that morning, and afterward, Miller reported that TBC would be removed from the running. Vernot, who Perlozzo said had recused herself from reviewing the bids, was to remain on as a consultant.
The review process was originally expected to conclude on Friday, narrowing down the list of 10 to three or five.
Waters did not respond to requests this week asking whether the list had been whittled down, and who the finalists were.