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Zimmerman/Edelson hired to promote Suffolk 311 system

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during an

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during an interview in his office at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge in April 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Bellone administration has given the public relations firm of Democratic national committeeman Robert Zimmerman a $25,000 contract to help to promote Suffolk County’s new 311 system.

The contract, which took effect May 17 and runs for one year, calls on the Great Neck-based firm of Zimmerman/Edelson Inc. to do a $3,000 “comprehensive digital marketing campaign to promote and publicize Suffolk 311 on social media outlets by posting digital ads.” The contract includes a four-week ad campaign on Facebook and Instagram for $15,000 and a $2,000 ad buy on Twitter. It also calls for up to $5,000 for a follow-up blitz on all three sites.

Steve Randzzo, deputy director of performance management, said the county solicited seven or eight firms, but only Zimmerman/Edelson made a proposal. Two others responded saying they did not wish to submit a plan.

Zimmerman said his firm, in business for 30 years, had “represented both Republican and Democratic municipalities throughout Long Island and nonprofits and national corporations.” Since the contract includes payment for ads, he estimated the firm’s profit would be $3,000 to $4,000. 

The comptroller’s office reported that Zimmerman/Edelson had received $245,482 in county business since County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, took office in 2012. The firm also has a separate $90,000-a-year contract with the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, which is paid from fees of those seeking IDA benefits.

Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy, the GOP county executive candidate, called the 311 project “a bad thing with a capital B,” noting the new spending comes after Bellone declared his seventh straight year of a fiscal crisis. He warned the purported $500,000 price tag would double to more than $1 million when equipment, licensing, staffing and promotion were added. “It’s the definition of insanity, all on the taxpayers’ backs,” he said.

In response, Jason Elan, Bellone’s spokesman, said, “It’s not surprising an entrenched career politician like Kennedy would oppose this government reform that has earned bipartisan praise across the nation, including his hometown Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim,” who was at the system’s launch.

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