City plans to spend up to $20K next year to hire a lobbyist

The City Council budgeted $20,000 in FY15 to cover the costs of a professional lobbyist to track legislation and promote the City’s interests before the Maryland General Assembly.

At the November 5th Worksession, Council requested the Assistant City Manager to develop a scope of services and solicit proposals from firms.

Previously, the Assistant City Manager previously had contacted staff from the cities of Bowie, Rockville, and Takoma Park to discuss the legislative services firms that they have used, and the costs and range of services the firms provided.

Based on that information and further discussion with staff, a scope of services was developed and three firms were requested to provide proposals. Joel Rozner of Rifkin, Weiner, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC was appreciative of the solicitation, but felt that his current clients would have conflicting interests with the City of College Park. The City received proposals from Michele Douglas, Principal with Public Policy Partners, LLC and Len Lucchi, Principal with O’Mally, Miles, Nylan & Gilmore, P A. A summary of the firms and their proposals are below.

PPP is a full-scale advocacy and government relations firm, offering lobbying, public policy development, grassroots advocacy, business development, and training services. The partners are not attorneys, but have long experience working in state government and/or lobbying for clients. PPP’s clients tend to be non-profits and associations. It proposes to provide approximately 134 hours of service at $150 per hour, for a total cost of$20,000 (mid-December through April 30, 2015). PPP would work with the City to develop a legislative agenda and strategy prior to the start of the session, and during the session it would provide weekly updates on legislation it would track for the City. It would also track pertinent budget items and present a report to Council with the outcomes of bills that were of interest to the City.

O’Mally, Miles, Nylan & Gilmore, P.A. (OMNG) is a full-service law firm with 20 employees who work in litigation, real estate, banking, and government relations. Its client list includes non-profits, associations, and private corporations. It proposes to provide approximately 60 hours of service for a total cost of $20,000 for the period of mid-December through April 30, 2015. OMNG would review legislation, develop City legislative strategies and positions, communicate the City’s positions to officials, facilitate meetings, provide weekly reports, coach staff and Council members prior to testimony, and represent the City’s interests in the state budget.

The lobbyists from PPP and OMNG received positive references. The hourly rate for OMNG is about twice the rate for PPP. However, the actual hours worked for both firms is an estimate, and with legislative services an hourly rate is not necessarily the best metric for value. Staff feel that Len Lucchi’s experience working with the County delegation and the City of Bowie will be of benefit to College Park. Mr. Lucchi will attend a worksession in January to meet with Council and discuss legislative priorities and issues. After the General Assembly concludes the session in April, the City can evaluate the costs and benefits of using a lobbyist and the strengths and weaknesses of the firm that provides services to the City.