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 nashvillecitypaper.com 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.
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