Government Brand Management & PR (Op-Ed)

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By Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W PR

No matter who wins this election, DC and government needs better brand management.

Government Brand Management & PRA recent story about the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), an U.S. federal agency shows some of the many PR issues our government faces. Daniel Horowitz, the board’s managing director, was placed on leave in June 2015 by Acting Board Chairman Richard (Rick) Engler.  Horowitz and the organizations then general counsel were accused of creating a toxic work environment, and retaliating against whistle-blowers. The official notice for his removal included 10 charges of misconduct.

Anyone in business found to have committed such misconduct would be out of work – yet now, a year later, and Horowitz is still on the payroll earning $158,700 because “the action was never finalized by the board.”  Is that really proper messaging?  They didn’t get around to cutting costs?

In June, Michael Wright, the health and safety director at the United Steelworkers union, told Bloomberg News “….it’s not the CSB’s fault.” Wright added it was appropriate to keep Horowitz off the job given the accusations against him noting “I’d rather have him collect a salary and not do work than collect a salary and do work for the CSB.”

It makes no sense at all – those who do no work must not be paid.  There is no logical reason to pay someone taxpayers’ dollars for staying at home.

Engler – the Acting Board Chairman of the CSB – also promoted a lawyer suing his agency for hundreds of thousands of dollars as its acting General Counsel.  Prior to his promotion, Raymond Porfiri was the agency’s Deputy General Counsel, having worked at CSB for 16 years. In October 2014, Porfiri filed a federal lawsuit against CSB charging it with various incidents of discrimination and failure to accommodate injuries he sustained in an April 2011 accident pruning a tree at his residence. In his suit Porfiri is demanding a $300,000 payment from the government – and in his new role is directly supervising the CSB attorney charged with assisting the Justice Department in defending against his own lawsuit!

The same Richard Engler soon after his appointment awarded “nearly $100,000 in sole-source contracts for outside lawyers and consultants without public notice or discussion and kept them below a dollar threshold that would trigger an array of federal procurement requirements.” Engler is married to Jeanne Oterson – the Chief of Staff of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), which coincidently gives tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to WEC.

Anyone with common business sense – and certainly those of us with an understanding of PR – realize that this makes no sense. Government mustn’t pay for no-show jobs, and things like this show why many associate government and bureaucracy with at best inefficiency, at worst – corruption.

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