DALLAS - Dallas mayoral candidate Mike Rawlings says he was able to save money when he recommended a friend for a city contract while he was president of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board.
But, News 8 has learned that as a result, the city may have overpaid for the "Happy Trails" campaign by tens of thousands of dollars.
The City of Dallas’ new Happy Trails campaign was designed to promote trail safety in city parks. Instead, it has taken a few treacherous turns.
In the wake of a News 8 investigation, the Dallas city auditor is investigating whether the contract was properly awarded to the marketing firm Jake:Ferguson.
Now, questions have surfaced as to whether the firm's owner, Jake Schroepfer, got the contract because of his relationship with then Parks and Recreation Board president and current mayoral candidate Mike Rawlings.
Rawlings initially told News 8 his only role in the campaign was to recommend three ad agencies for the job: The Richards Group, The Tracy Locke Agency and Jake:Ferguson.
"I just gave those three names and they took it from there," Rawlings said when WFAA first raised the issue on May 5, 2010.
Yet, in an e-mail last October to Dallas Parks and Recreation Department director Paul Dyer, Rawlings said he's "lukewarm on the Richards Group".
Now, Rawlings said what he meant by that was the Richards Group probably wouldn't be interested in doing a big campaign for little or no money.
"I didn't actually contact them," he said. "My job was just to recommend the three firms."
But, according to Stan Richards, founder of the Richards Group, no one from Dallas City Hall contacted him or his firm seeking their input or participation on the project. Richards said his firm does pro bono work for 27 area non-profits.
"Absolutely, we would have been interested in working with the city had they called us," he said. "There's a chance that we would have done it for nothing."
If true, that would have meant the city would have saved the $81,000 it is currently contracted to spend on the Happy Trails campaign with the Jake:Ferguson firm and the sub-contractors it recruited.
Rawlings’ answer to that?
"We will call on them in the future; you can tell them right now," he said. "They are a great agency."