DuPage Election Commission, public relations firm part ways

Reverse Spin has spun its final news release for the DuPage County Election Commission.

After handling media inquires for the commission for several years, the Wheaton-based public relations firm on Thursday notified the commission it didn’t want to renew its agreement with the agency.

The parting came as the bipartisan panel that oversees the election agency was poised to decide whether Reverse Spin should receive a one-year, $36,000 professional services contract. Reverse Spin was being paid $3,000 a month by the commission but didn’t have a contract.

In a letter to commission Executive Director Robert Saar, Reverse Spin’s Dan Curry wrote that his firm was undertaking several new projects for 2013, “including one that might conflict with work done on behalf of the election commission.”

Curry, who served as the commission’s spokesman, wrote it was “a pleasure” working with everyone and “to help the agency tell its story to the public.”

Reached through email on Friday, Curry provided a copy of the letter. He said he had nothing more to add.

Records show Curry did work for the commission since at least 2007. Saar said he will be missed. “There’s no director who doesn’t like to have PR,” he said.

Saar said the election commission will review whether it needs a paid spokesman now that the presidential election is over.

In fact, Saar said the commission is in the process of getting several contracts rebid to see if it can find better deals. The agency, for example, is letting other vendors compete for a possible contract to print ballots for the February and April local elections.

“We can save money in lots of different ways by doing this,” Saar said.

Cathy Ficker Terrill, the election board chairman, said she believes the agency could live without employing a public relations firm.

The decision to hire Reverse Spin was made by previous members of the election panel, all of whom were ousted in April after a consultants’ report found poor ethics and procurement practices at the commission. The former board members wanted to have a spokesman to manage the message coming out of the agency, officials said.

But Terrill argued there’s no need for the commission to use a public relations firm when staff can email news releases to the media and put information on the agency’s website.

On Friday, Terrill said commission staff members have agreed to prepare news releases related to “noncontroversial issues.” She said the county has offered to provide support from its public relations staff.

If the commission decides there is a need for additional services, Terrill said the election board “will look at the appropriate way to secure that.”

In the meantime, Terrill said, the commission is saving $3,000 a month. “We’re very pleased,” she said.

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