City Of Carroll Project Pulled After Concerns Of Possible Exclusivity Are Raised

A small promotional video project approved by the Carroll City Council has been pulled after concerns were brought forward about the possible perception of exclusivity on two separate fronts. In late June, City Manager, Mike Pogge-Weaver and co-owner of the Daily Times Herald, Doug Burns, brought their proposal to the council at a routine meeting. The source of the concerns arose from the explanation of the project and how it was created. Carroll Broadcasting met with Pogge-Weaver to ask questions and discuss both issues, the first of which was the fact that the project was not offered to other businesses in the community who do video and promotional productions. While Pogge-Weaver said that was a mistake and oversight on his part not to offer other businesses the chance to provide a Request for Proposal (RFP), Burns provided conflicting responses. In a memo after the concerns were raised, Burns wrote, “I had no expectation of an exclusive opportunity.” However, Burns said the concept and details of the project were discussed in detail in private meetings. In addition, before the project was even heard of or approved by the council, Burns made “financial commitments,” setting the stage for his company to complete the work

In addition, the relationship Burns describes in the audio with an individual from Iowa Public Television (IPTV) was one that Mary Bracken, IPTV Communications Coordinator, says is of concern to them. She says they do not enter into these types of contracts, but they have been notified by a number of organizations that a production deal is being offered by someone claiming to have ties to several Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) shows. Those claims are not true. The secondary concern brought forward was the creation of a for-profit relationship between a news media outlet and city government. Though not illegal, and many media outlets derive income from advertisement production, what Pogge-Weaver says they wanted differed greatly from what Mr. Burns was proposing. Burns told council members at the initial meeting he was seeking a connection to news content.

More than once, Burns offered to populate the promotional site with news articles. Pogge-Weaver says that point was a problem for him.

The project would not require the city to pay directly for the videos, however, the Daily Times Herald would be entering into a three year contract to derive advertising revenue by selling the connection to city government through news content. Carroll Broadcasting strongly believes that the ties between the news and the city, in a for-profit relationship, could greatly compromise the ability for any news outlet to remain in their position as a watchdog; ensuring transparency in all matters of city government. After these issues were brought to light, Burns and Pogge-Weaver agreed to have the project pulled at the next council meeting. However, the full scope of all concerns were not presented to all council members, and they voted to move forward. After that meeting, each individual was presented with the concerns directly and it was mutually agreed upon to kill the project. Two council members have stated that if they had been aware of the issues raised beforehand, they would never have voted to continue with the proposal. The project may be brought to the council again at a future date, but the city has made assurances they will be requesting proposals from all interested parties first. Several attempts were made to discuss with Mr. Burns the conflicting statements made before and after the concerns were raised, but he has failed to respond to those requests.