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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau marketing effort backfires

Karin Caro of BluChip Marketing poses for a

Karin Caro of BluChip Marketing poses for a portrait in Bohemia on Juy 27, 2011. Credit: Newsday File / Jason Andrew

Newsday’s Paul LaRocco took us on quite the wild ride through the makings of a no-bid contract — which turned into a second no-bid contract, despite concerns voiced by county employees — in Nassau.

Why did the county twice hire a marketing firm to duplicate and poorly, judging from a series of internal emails obtained by Newsday — work that could have been done by county employees?

That seemed wasteful. And unnecessary.

How so? Let’s look at the numbers.

By my count, four county employees raised concerns about the first contract, in 2013, before and after it was executed.

Robert Walker, County Executive Edward Mangano’s top deputy, first recommended that parks department officials meet with Karin Caro, head of BluChip Marketing.

Carnell Foskey, the county attorney, urged parks and recreation employees to welcome Caro.

But county employees, including Mary Studdert, a special assistant for constituent affairs, said not so fast.

Studdert told Walker, via email, that there already was somebody on staff responsible for promoting the county’s film industry. That was Debra Markowitz, who earned $64,661 as Nassau’s assistant commissioner for cinema and television promotion — a title that, in itself, seems to flag that the contract work was duplicative.

Especially in a county — with a state financial control board — that is supposed to be watching expenses.

But no.

Walker said he didn’t believe there would be an issue.

And later, when Markowitz, suggested there was no room for Caro on an upcoming county bus tour of filming sites, Foskey struck back. “Debbie,” he wrote, “I strongly suggest that if Karin wants to ride on the bus you find room.”

All of this was BEFORE the first of two contracts with Caro’s firm was finalized.

Afterward, parks and recreation department personnel and others questioned the quality of the firm’s work, pointing out errors in marketing materials and cancellations of events because of poor public interest.

At one point, Eileen Krieb, a county service representative in parks and recreation, agreed with another employee’s criticism that materials the firm created for a Taste of Nassau” event (that later was canceled due to lack of public interest) looked “dark and unfriendly.”

“But who are we to have an opinion!!” she wrote.

By my count, four county employees — with public salaries totaling $316,230 in 2013 — raised concerns about the firm’s work. Including a piece that initially put the county executive’s office in Eisenhower Park, in East Meadow — rather than 4.5 miles away in Mineola where it belongs.

But their concerns were brushed aside by two high ranking Nassau officials — Foskey and Walker.

As a result, the marketing firm ultimately received not one, but two contracts, totaling $48,500 for work that Markowitz already was being paid for.

Why? Perhaps some answers will come once Nassau’s district attorney’s office completes its investigation of the contracts.

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