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Team that got $107 million for Harbor Pt. is now pushing the Dynis water meter bid

Gallagher Evelius’ Ryan Potter and KO Public Affairs come to the aid of the high bidder of the controversial contract.

Above: Ryan Potter (right) confers with the mayor’s lobbyist, Andrew Smullian, at a City Council hearing in August that approved Harbor Point’s tax subsidy.

If at first you do succeed, then try, try again.

In that spirit, the same team that helped the developer of Harbor Point secure $107 million in public tax financing last month is now fighting to win a water meter contract for Earl Scott which is fully $100 million more than a competing bid.

Ryan J. Potter, a partner at the Gallagher Evelius & Jones law firm, has re-grouped with KO Public Affairs, run by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s former spokesman Steve Kearney and Damian O’Doherty, to help Scott’s obscure cell-tower company win one of the biggest contracts of the year.

The contract, to install 400,000 “smart” water meters in Baltimore city and county, has roiled City Hall ever since The Brew revealed the spread between the two proposals – $84 million by industry giant Itron and $185 million from Dynis LLC, Earl Scott’s company.

The winner of the contract has not yet been publicly announced, leaving plenty of wiggle room for intrigue and political influence.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and her staff say that until the award is approved by the Board of Estimates – perhaps as early as next week, but more likely in two weeks – no additional information will be released so as not to “compromise the integrity of the process.”

Secretive Process

The Dynis and Itron bids are now under evaluation by the purchasing department, MWBOO (Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office) and the Department of Public Works.

Earl Scott, founder, president and CEO of Dynis. (Dynis LLC)

Earl Scott, founder, president and CEO of Dynis LLC.

Because 70% of the evaluation is based on technical considerations, not price, Scott’s high bid has an excellent chance at winning the contract.

A technical committee, which includes Bureau of Water and Wastewater Chief Rudolph Chow, has already “scored” the Dynis and Itron bids. Those scores have not been released.

The mayor has insisted, twice, that she was not involved in the procurement or scoring process after The Brew disclosed that her top campaign contributor, Baltimore Grand Prix promoter J.P. Grant, is allied with the Dynis bid.

Dynis hired Potter on October 3 to serve as the company’s and Scott’s lobbyist before the administration, according to a city registration form. Within days, KO’s O’Doherty was actively encouraging a reporter to write a story about the advantages of Dynis’ water meters.

Politically-wired firm wants $100 million more for city contract than competitor (10/9/13)
Mayor tightlipped about Dynis contract (10/9/13)
Rejected company had lowest bid for city’s water meters (10/10/13)
Finances of firm seeking $185M water meter contract appear shaky (10/11/13)
Mayor issues statement on water meter contract and Dynis (10/11/13)
Totaling up the costs of “smart” water meters (10/18/13)

Bare-Knuckle Lobbying

Potter and KO made a name for themselves with their aggressive lobbying of the City Council to win approval of $107 million in financing bonds for Michael S. Beatty, president of the Harbor Point Development Group.

Ryan Potter confers with Councilman Ed Riesinger (left) and KO Public Affair's Steve Kearney during the Harbor Point hearings in August. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Ryan Potter confers with Councilman Ed Reisinger (left) and KO Public Affair’s Steve Kearney at a Harbor Point hearing. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

At a August 7 hearing, Potter repeatedly buttonholed councilmen and conferred with the mayor’s chief lobbyist, Andrew Smullian, to blunt efforts by committee chair Carl Stokes to delay passage of the financing legislation.

The committee approved the measure over Stokes’ objections and sent it to the Council. Later, when the measure was passed, Kearney threatened in the Council chambers to “go after” and politically ruin Stokes for opposing Beatty and the bill.

Layers of Clout

The influence exerted by Potter and the KO firm is hard to determine in the absence of any public forums about the water meter contract. Both Potter and O’Doherty did not return phone and email messages seeking comment.

Potter was retained to represent Dynis as an “executive action lobbyist” – defined as seeking to communicate with city officials or employees in furtherance of a client’s agenda – until December 31.

The Gallagher Evelius law firm is a veteran player in local and state politics; its managing partner, Richard O. Berndt, was described by the mayor’s father, the late Del. Howard P. “Pete” Rawlings, as “the political pope of Baltimore.” The firm was a heavy giver to Rawlings-Blake’s 2011 mayoral campaign.

KO describes itself as a strategic communications firm that helps it clients “win where business, government, politics and media meet.” Stripped of the fancy lingo, the group is a “boutique” behind-the-scenes player that uses its ties to Gov. O’Malley (co-founder Kearney’s ex-boss) and Baltimore’s mayor to lobby politicians and government officials.

Lisa Harris Jones and Damian O'Doherty jointly host the political podcast,

Lisa Harris Jones and Damian O’Doherty host the political podcast, “Maryland Inside Out,” but are on opposite sides of the water meter battle. (Center Maryland)

O’Doherty is the older brother of Ryan O’Doherty, Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s former spokesman. He was a top aide to former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and is currently a trustee of the Maryland Democratic Party.

Along with Howard Libit, KO’s chief operating officer and a former Baltimore Sun editor, O’Doherty handles media relations through “off-the-record” discussions with reporters, editorial writers and publishers, not formal press releases.

Yet another player involved in the Dynis bid is Peter E. Auchincloss, chairman of the Parking Authority of Baltimore City (PABC) and former chairman of the Planning Commission.

Auchincloss owns Watermark Corp. that sells water treatment equipment and services and does consulting. He has told city officials he represents R. E. Harrington, a Dynis subcontractor, and has accompanied Earl Scott to meetings with DPW and Bureau of Water personnel.

He did not respond to a request for an interview.

Itron has Lisa Harris Jones

Itron, the low bidder, is not without its own political clout.

Last June, the company retained superlobbyist and mayoral friend Lisa Harris Jones  to represent its interests in the water meter bid process.

Yesterday Jones confirmed that she represents the company, based in Liberty Lake, Wash., but said she could provide no further information.

“[Itron’s] policy is not to discuss an active procurement with the media or any outside party. In accordance with that policy, we’re not able to comment as well,” she said.
Contact Mark Reutter at reuttermark@yahoo.com or at 410-802-4990.

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