NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Mike McGill recently left his job as the public information officer for Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. CFPUA has now hired him back as an outside contractor to produce its annual report.
WECT Investigates asked for a copy of the contract between the public agency and its former employee, McGill.
According to that contract, CFPUA is paying McGill $13,300 to write the text for a report that has historically been about 20 pages long. Many of those pages are filled with pictures that CFPUA will add at their own expense outside of the contract price with McGill.
That works out to about $650 per page for McGill, a cost that local PR professionals we consulted considered excessive. McGill and CFPUA leaders stand by the price as fair.
"The annual report is…put together to give our customers a good recap of what the utility authority is doing, it's goals and standards and it's kind of a report card," CPFUA board member and New Hanover County Commissioner Pat Kusek explained.
"It's hard to put a price tag on what it takes to make sure that your business is transparent and you are doing what you say you're going to do, and I think there is value in that," Kusek added when asked if this report was a worthwhile expense for utility authority customers.
Kusek said the board was aware McGill was being hired to produce the report after his departure from CFPUA, but she was not aware of the price tag until we contacted her.
"I have produced Annual Reports for private companies and public agencies for the past 15 years," McGill told WECT. "The contract's amount is completely appropriate for the amount of work being conducted. Prior to my arrival at CFPUA, the last annual report writing contract I executed cost $16,000 and it was for a public entity serving almost exactly the same number of customers."
The annual report is presented to the city and county each year. It's also online, and available to the public at places like the library.
We asked CFPUA's executive director Jim Flechtner if he had any idea how many people actually read it.
"No, we don't have a way to measure that, but our success isn't in how many people read the report," Flechtner explained. "Our success is in what we accomplished that year and the authority, and this is just a way for us to get that word out."
Years ago, administrators at CFPUA put the annual report together themselves. When they hired McGill four years ago, he took over that job.
"When I interviewed for the position back in 2012, the annual report was an area where CFPUA stated it wanted to see improvement," McGill said of how high a priority the authority placed on the annual report. "The fact that I had written more publicly oriented annual reports was one of the reasons I was given the job back in 2012. My hiring was seen as providing a great deal of value to the position and I believe that fact has been reinforced by my post-CFPUA contract."
McGill is now working as president of Water PIO, an independent public relations firm specializing in services for water authorities. Because of his unique skill set and experience with their agency, CFPUA said it made sense to hire McGill rather than putting the job out for bid.
"We'll pay typically $30,000 or so for a report of similar size, and similar complexity," Flechtner said. "So we think the contract we have with water PIO and Mike McGill is certainly a good value for us, and worth the effort that will go into producing that report."