State approves tourism $3 million contract despite lack of budget approval
Nevada News Bureau
The state Board of Examiners on Friday approved a $3 million contract with an out-of-state firm to spearhead tourism efforts in Nevada after being told the selection process was thorough and fair.
The board, with members Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto voting, approved the two-year contract with the California-based offices of Burson-Marsteller.
Approval came despite the fact that the contract remains in limbo. The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in June delayed approval of budgetary changes sought by the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs needed to pay the contract.
The budget changes were deferred after state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District seat, questioned if the firm had any knowledge of Nevada. The Interim Finance Committee won’t meet again until Aug. 23.
Sandoval said he was satisfied that the selection process was proper. He also noted that Nevada has some preferences for Nevada firms competing for contracts, but that the provisions did not come into play to the selection process.
If there was a tie, for example, then a Nevada firm would get the nod, but there was no tie in this case.
“I’m confident in the process,” Sandoval said after the vote. “I think that it was a well-vetted process that was consistent with what the state has always done. It was consistent with the law. There was a committee that was comprised of both private sector experts in the area as well as experts within the state of Nevada that fairly graded each of the applicants.”
Nineteen firms, eight from in-state and 11 from outside Nevada, submitted proposals to secure the contract.
“I think that the entity that was selected will do well for the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.
Claudia Vecchio, director of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, along with Greg Smith, state administrator and chief procurement officer of the Nevada State Purchasing Division, reviewed the selection process for the board.
The request for proposals was handled like any other such contract, with no special treatment provided to any firm, Smith said.
Vecchio defended the contract and selection process at the Interim Finance Committee meeting, noting that none of the four finalists were from Nevada, a fact which generated comment from at least one Nevada public relations firm.
Burson-Marsteller, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, was the unanimous selection of an evaluation committee made up of Nevada tourism professionals, Vecchio said. The company will be working with Red Rock Strategies out of Las Vegas, she said.
The contract has been drawn up and signed by both parties, but it remains contingent upon approval of state officials.
Vecchio said the firm will provide national and international contacts that will benefit the state.