Santa Clara Slated to Approve $170K PR Contract Despite Looming Budget Shortfall

As cities across Silicon Valley brace for cuts to staffing and services, the Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday afternoon is poised to approve a six-figure public relations contract between its stadium authority and controversial communications consultant Sam Singer.

If approved, the $170,000 contract between the Santa Clara Stadium Authority and Singer Associates would go into effect on July 1 and run through March 2022. The stadium authority could also use its “sole discretion” to extend the contract for three one-year options though March 2025.

The hearing of the agreement, however, is scheduled just hours before the council will review the Stadium Authority’s potential revenue losses of up to $8 million—should the NFL season be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But city spokesperson Lenka Wright said that Singer’s services were especially needed since Levi Stadium will be impacted by Covid-19 fallout as well as ongoing litigation.

“The Stadium Authority Board has determined that it is important to keep the public apprised and, for that reason, we continue to need consultant services,” she said. “As noted in the May 12 agenda memo, unspent funds from the current Stadium Authority contract with Singer & Associates, Inc.—approximately $70,000—are recommended to be carried over to a new contract, which would be in a not to exceed amount of $170,000. The FY 2020/21 Adopted Budget for the Stadium Authority already includes $100,000 for communications and the recommended consultant services contract.”

This isn’t the first time that Santa Clara has retained Singer for his services. In February 2018, Santana and City Attorney Brian Doyle signed off on two separate public relations contracts: one with the city and the other with the stadium authority. Each contract was worth up to $100,000, sparking accusations that city officials tried to flout procurements rules—which state the city council has to approve all contracts over $100,000—by separating Singer’s services into two separate contracts.

“In early 2018, staff conducted the process and Sam Singer was the single respondent to that procurement process,” Wright told the Mercury News at the time. “As such, and well within the city’s procurement rules and delegated authority, the city manager issued two contracts for up to $100,000 each (one for the City and one for the Stadium Authority). The City Manager’s contract authority for the City contract is $100,000 and for the Stadium Authority, which is a separate entity from the City, the Executive Director’s contract authority is $250,000.”

Singer’s scope of services in the proposed contract, for which he will bill $250 an hour, include community engagement and outreach, branding, assisting with media relations and supplementing in-house communications. The city’s past contracts with Singer have had a similar scope of services. In an August 2019 invoice obtained by San Jose Inside, Singer billed Santa Clara $3,000 to “review and monitor news media” for 12 hours.

Like the Stadium Authority, the city of Santa Clara is bracing for the economic ripple effects of Covid-19, as well. Last week, City Manager Deanna Santana authored a letter to community members about the fiscal toll the pandemic has taken on the city.

Santana said that Santa Clara has taken a number of measures to cut down on costs—including the evaluation of all current contracts. “Understandably, due to the COVID-19 fiscal consequences, our priorities have shifted,” she said. “Where we were once focused on growth strategies and strategic addition of resources for expanded services, we are now focused to strategic decision of maintaining service levels.”

Santana added that library hours, community events and parks and recreation programs could be on the budget chopping block in the coming months, as well.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

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