The Phoenix City Council approved two new contracts for federal lobbying firms, saving taxpayers approximately $180,000 without sacrificing any representation.

The contracts were awarded to Holland and Knight, LLP and Murray Montgomery and O’Donnell.

Holland and Knight, LLP will provide federal representation on issues dealing with public safety, transportation and water and environment while Murray Montgomery and O’Donnell will represent the city on issues dealing with community development.

The city currently has four firms providing federal representation at an annual cost of $514,392. The new firms shrink that cost down to $320,000 a year.

Holland and Knight will be awarded $240,000 per year while Murray, Montgomery and O’Donnell will receive $80,000.

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said he was originally going to vote down the new contracts, but after conversations with city staff he was able to get the assurances he needed to approve the new firms.

“It brings down the total cost of lobbying,” DiCiccio said. “What it also does is in the past money was just shuffled out to these lobbying firms and there was no true accountability. They didn’t have any metrics in place that assured success. Staff has told me that in their final contracts they will have, there will be measurements associated with that.”

DiCiccio said the new contracts will also have language to measure easily accomplished tasks separately from difficult tasks to get a true sense of how successful the firms were.

There were some concerns with the new contracts brought up during the City Council’s formal meeting on Wednesday.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski said Murray, Montgomery and O’Donnell have been representing the Phoenix Fire Department for years and that the department has been pleased with their representation. They’ve been able to secure many federal grants necessary for keeping up operations.

Nowakowski expressed some fear over switching to a new firm to represent public safety issues.

“My concern is that we have a hiring freeze right now for public safety,” Nowakowski said. “Our public safety is really depending on all these grants that have been in the past and that we’re looking to in the future. I want to be sure that we continue receiving these grants. It’s a risk. It’s a risk that we’ve never worked with this agency in the past. We have worked with O’Donnell and we’ve seen results with O’Donnell.”

City staff assured the council that Holland and Knight has a good track record of working for public safety issues.

Karen Peters with the city of Phoenix also assured council members that if there are some issues Murray, Montgomery and O’Donnell might have some expertise on, it would make good business sense for them to help when asked.

The contracts will be in effect for one year, from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2013, with an option to renew at that time.

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