Ocean City withdraws company from advertising dispute | New

A company was dropped from the tender for Ocean City government’s marketing activities next year after officials discovered that a consultant working with the city’s tourism department was married to a person from the agency.

City manager Doug Miller said last week that Baltimore-based TBC Inc. was no longer in the running as a potential advertising company.

Ocean City officials began their search for a new advertising company this month, accepting 10 offers in response to a request for proposals from companies across the country.

Companies that submitted bids included Mariner Marketing from Columbia, Maryland, TBC Inc., Harvey Agency from Baltimore, Integrated Designs from Glen Burnie, who worked on the Walksmart Ocean City campaign, and Fuse Ideas from Boston, Massachusetts.

Some of the other agencies are Beyond Spots and Dots, Paradise Advertising and the Bellweather Agency.

Owings Mills, Md., MGH Advertising Inc., which has worked with Ocean City for 20 years, did not submit a bid, although the resort’s director of tourism and business development Tom Perlozzo said they had an advantage because the team knew the product.

When the offers were announced on November 3, Miller opened them and Board Secretary Tony DeLuca read the names of the companies on file without the bid amounts.

After the meeting, Miller said dollar amounts for each offer were omitted because it was confidential information. When asked who would be involved in reviewing the bids, the city manager said Perlozzo, communications director Jessica Waters and members of the tourism committee.

When asked how members of the Tourism Commission can sit on reviews and see offers, even if they are members of the public, Miller said he would check with City Counsel Heather Stansbury.

No response was ever given on that, but in a further review last week Miller said the offers would be reviewed by Perlozzo, Waters and Andrea Vernot of Choptank Communications.

Vernot was hired by the city in a consulting role to help develop a strategic strategy and rename the resort.

The problem, as discovered last week, was that Vernot is married to Brent Burkhardt whose LinkedIn profile not only listed him in a PR role for Choptank, but also as an executive for TBC.

Miller said he was unaware of the connection, but the matter was investigated and called for a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m.

Chairman of the Board Matt James, Mayor Rick Meehan, Miller, Perlozzo and Waters met to discuss the situation that morning, and subsequently Miller announced that TBC would be removed from the race. Vernot, who Perlozzo said declined to consider the offers, was to remain as a consultant.

The review process was originally scheduled to end on Friday, narrowing the list from 10 to three or five.

Waters did not respond to requests this week asking if the list had been narrowed down and who the finalists were.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on November 26, 2021.

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