The Jefferson County Commission unanimously agreed to a contract with Big Marketing and Communications today, but not without Commissioner Lashunda Scales again expressing her opposition to contracts that don’t reflect the county’s need to increase its dealings with historically under-represented businesses.
Jesse Lewis spoke to the commission as it considered the contract to rebrand the county and promote its bicentennial. He said there is an oral agreement between Big Marketing and Communications and his company, Agency 54.
“I trust Big Communications, and we have agreed to do half of the work and we get half of the money,” Lewis says.
As the contract is for $204,560, Lewis’ company would get $101,780.
“We have agreed to that and if that changes, I’m no longer interested.” Lewis says. “I strongly recommend that you approve the contract as is. If you don’t do that, it’ll be March or April before you reach a conclusion.”
Before the commission voted, Scales said she didn’t like what she was hearing.
“I’m only going to approve it at the request of Dr. Lewis,” she says. “But there is no reason why any business goes through getting their own license, getting their own federal ID number to only be a staffer, per se, to another business. I think it’s disrespectful. I think it’s very discourteous.”
Scales promised to view future contracts similarly.
“I am going to make a stink about it,” she says. “I have told this commission I am not my previous predecessor. I’m going to get along with everybody. I’m going to do what I believe is right.”
Jefferson County operated from 1982 until earlier this year under a federal receiver in connection with a consent decree on hiring and employee practices. The county still is in a monitoring period to assure it continues to abide by the decree.
“But at the end of the day, if we’re going to have a consent decree that includes women and African American-owned businesses, I want to see it reflected in our contracts,” Scales says. “Even if you get the majority vote, I’m going to make it clear what my opposition is and as to why.”
The county has had previous dealings with Lewis. As recently as July 27, 2016, commissioners awarded The Lewis Group a contract of up to $300,000 for consultant services for professional marketing and advertising services from July 28, 2016, to July 27, 2017.
In another matter, commissioners voted to delay action on a request to rezone property at 7710 Bagley Road in Dora so a Dollar General store could be put there.
Larry Lawson, who lives near the site, voiced opposition.
“It’s going to be almost in our front door,” Lawson says. “I really disagree with it. I think it’s totally wrong. I’ve worked the last 43 years in Jefferson County, I retired in October and I think it’s wrong for a citizen to be run over by someone with a little bit of money.”
Scales initially moved to decline the rezoning. She rescinded her motion and seconded a motion by Commissioner Steve Ammons to carry the matter over to the Jan. 10 commission meeting.