Taxpayers Shut Out of Information Regarding State Spending on Media Company
STATE HOUSE -- An Access to Public Records Act request, submitted by House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) requesting information on the Public Relations activities of our vendor, Havas Media, has been rejected by the office of Governor Gina M. Raimondo.
Representative Morgan submitted the request, asking for information related to the state’s hiring of Havas Media, a multinational advertising and public relations company, hired to create positive press for Rhode Island. According to Governor Raimondo, the stated goal of the hire was to boost Rhode Island's image throughout the country, in order to attract not only visitors, but companies who might relocate here.
In her request, Rep. Morgan asked how much Havas PR was being paid, where stories were being placed, and the metrics detailing how effective its campaign was, to date. She also requested copies of all the stories it has placed, so far.
In a letter received from Joshua Butera, Special Counsel & Public Records Officer, denying the request, he stated. “Our office completed a review of the requested materials. There is one document responsive to your request but is being withheld, as it is not deemed public.”
Rep. Morgan said, “Not only is this response an insult to Rhode Island taxpayers, it is laughable. Taxpayer dollars are public, no matter which way you do that math. How much the state is spending on Havas and what we are getting for our money should be a matter of public interest."
"It's been two years. It either shows an appalling lack of oversight or willful disregard for the effective expenditure of taxpayer money to state that only one document exists. How do state leaders know that this firm is working to promote Rhode Island effectively, or at all, if we don't even have copies of their articles and advertisements?"
“The Governor originally led Rhode Islanders to believe that Havas was hired to help the state of Rhode Island, by drafting positive media stories. As with any public relations purchase, the customer should have data that indicates the effectiveness of the campaign. In this case, the Governor's response appears to be, ' We know nothing. Even if we did, we aren't sharing it with the People of RI.' This is completely irresponsible and unacceptable. It's a slap in the face of all taxpayers, who deserve better."
For more information, contact:
Raina C. Smith, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903