Consultant to meet with mayor over 'unacceptable' strategy report

mayor demands meeting

jpatton1@herald-leader.comMarch 5, 2011 

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray wants a full report in person Monday from a consulting firm accused of recycling work on the city's economic development strategy.

"I'm asking (Angelos) Angelou to come to Lexington first thing Monday morning to explain exactly how this happened and what is going to change in the next report," Gray said Friday afternoon. "I've asked Bob Quick to join us. He is the head of Commerce Lexington and he's responsible for it."

Quick, chairman and chief executive of Commerce Lexington, said Friday that AngelouEconomics will have three weeks to rewrite the draft after it was discovered that parts were lifted nearly verbatim from recommendations for other cities.

Angelou said Friday that he will take charge himself of rewriting the report after the project manager delivered work that was unacceptable.

"What he's assured us is this report will be very tailored to Lexington and we will hold him to that," Quick said. "We will be talking to Angelos frequently, and he's assured us it will be excellent."

The strategy was scheduled to be made public on March 18.

Angelou, head of the consulting firm AngelouEconomics, said Friday from Austin, Texas, that he will come to Lexington.

"If that is what it takes, I will be there," Angelou said. "If that is what the mayor wants, the mayor gets what he wants."

Gray said the report has been repeatedly delayed, a situation that he finds very frustrating. The original request-for-proposals set a June 1, 2010, deadline but that was pushed back until after the November elections.

"We've been waiting on the report for months, so basically we've been in suspended animation from a strategic point of view," Gray said. "We need a business plan that can really help Lexington. I've observed our economic development efforts as a businessman, as a volunteer, as vice mayor and now as mayor. We have a lot of work to do and all options are on the table."

Those options might include the city taking more control of economic development or more oversight over of Commerce Lexington.

Under previous Mayor Jim Newberry the city transferred much of the responsibility for development to Commerce Lexington, which was formed in 2004 and is partially funded by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

The city paid Commerce Lexington $509,070 in fiscal 2010 and has budgeted $508,000 for fiscal 2011. The group considers itself to be private and does not publicly disclose its finances.

Quick said Friday that Commerce Lexington has not asked Angelou to refund any of the $150,000 paid for the report. At least half of the money came directly from the city.

"We have asked him to go back over and review all the past materials submitted," Quick said. AngelouEconomics has submitted two preliminary reports, a market analysis and a target industry analysis. A third, on how Commerce Lexington stacks up against peers, has yet to be delivered.

A draft of his firm's final report was criticized Thursday by grass-roots advocacy group ProgressLex as "recycled" from recommendations made for other cities.

Angelou said late Thursday, after reading an analysis by Lexington businessman Ben Self, that he could not defend the work. He described the report as "deeply embarrassing" and he apologized.

"This is the biggest blow for AngelouEconomics in my professional career. We've been in business for 15 years," Angelou said Friday. "There's no excuse for it. ... Had I known what was going on, we wouldn't have been defending it. ... There is no way I could professionally defend that report."

The version of the plan that Self analyzed contained multiple passages copied almost verbatim from work done for other places.

That cannot stand, Angelou said.

He said he was traveling Thursday and wasn't able to look at Self's blog posting until Thursday night, when he realized that something had gone wrong.

"What has happened in this report is not acceptable to me and doesn't meet the standards of our firm at all," Angelou said late Thursday. "I take full responsibility. This is a serious lapse of quality at our shop due to one of our staff's situation. ... This is unacceptable and really quite embarrassing. ... I cannot defend what has happened."

Angelou said Friday that the project manager, Chris Carucci, is a new father and his baby has health problems that apparently seriously jeopardized Carucci's work. But his superiors were not made aware of the problem. When asked Thursday if the blog report was accurate, Carucci denied it.

"He should have told us," Angelou said. "Nothing is an excuse. If he didn't have enough time to do this, work on this report, he should have told us. Moreover, to just sit in front of me and lie, that's not acceptable."

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