McNeely, Pigott & Fox quits convention center project

Monday, August 17, 2009 at 3:43pm

The powerful public relations firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox officially stepped down as the communications contractor for the proposed convention center project on Monday.

Citing the fact that a “flurry of allegations concerning the communications efforts,” McNeely, Pigott & Fox partner David Fox alerted the Metro Development and Housing Agency of the decision in a letter.

McNeely, Pigott & Fox founding partner Mike Pigott was scheduled to appear at a special Metro Council discussion on the issue tonight.

McNeely, Pigott & Fox has billed Metro for $450,000 for communications work done for the proposed Music City Center project. The original contract with MDHA was for just $75,000. There has been considerable backlash since invoices turned in by the PR firm showed billing for meetings with Mayor Karl Dean’s office in addition to monitoring local blogs and commenting on stories on and elsewhere.

Councilwoman Emily Evans said the communications invoices called into question MDHA’s ability to manage contracts, while Councilman Mike Jameson said the invoices show the connected PR firm was lobbying Council members earlier this year when land acquisition legislation was on the table. The legislation ultimately passed.

Dean reacted to the revelation, first reported by NewsChannel5, by suspending McNeely, Pigott & Fox and calling for Metro Finance Department to review all the invoices. Dean also called for the creation of a new Convention Center Authority to oversee the development of the estimated $635 million Music City Center project.

So far, MDHA has spent $16 million on predevelopment activities — of which 3 percent went to the PR firm. The funds come from tourism taxes and fees approved by Metro Council last year.


17WEBMDHA Ryan letter.pdf119.06 KB

3 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 8/17/09 at 3:49

to sum up:
MPF was doing the wrong thing (lobbying the council) for the wrong amount of money. MDHA let them do it until someone finally asked to see the invoices. The Mayor who is tight with both MDHA's leader and MPF partners cried foul over something that he knew was happening all along. Rather than coming out and cleaning everything up though he calls for oversight to be moved to a board he has wanted all along. This same board will not clear up problems from MDHA though since its setup will be exactly the same.

The cleanest thing to do would be to let all those Metro employees in finance and engineering run these types of projects instead of hiding them in politically connected, off budget enterprises. But we cannot let that happen because there are rules to follow in government project management and those rules would interfere in the ultimate goal of getting this built no matter what. the mayors office and finance director have already told everyone when groundbreaking will be and when they expect it to open, even without approval from the council.

By: producer2 on 8/17/09 at 4:10

not really the truth but only your opinion. First there is no evidence that MPF ever did any lobbying. There is now some evidence that opponents may be doing some lobbying as well. They receive funds from Metro out of the same fund that paid for MPF. Would that make it illegal for them to lobby?

By: JeffF on 8/17/09 at 4:28

I would love to see some proof that opponents received some money for helping the mayor and council people write some speeches and attend meetings.