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Lucrative No-Bid Billboard Contract Tries to Slip Its Way Through Norwalk Planning Commission

Overhead picture of the area where the billboard will be placed.

 

BY BRIAN HEWS

Three weeks ago, Hews Media Group reported on Santa Fe Springs city officials involved in a questionable deal to hand a profitable billboard contract deal to one company, rather than the independent billboard company, Bulletin Displays, who did all the hard work to get the message boards approved by the state.

The dispute awaits an arbitration case, due to be heard very soon.

Just days after that story ran, another local billboard company informed HMG that they had similar problems with the same officials.

During the process, the owner of Bulletin, Mark Kudler was refused a records request by top Santa Fe Officials, which would have revealed early on that mega-billboard company Outdoor Associates was the “other” company.

Kudler had an exclusive on the deal, yet Santa Fe Springs officials, with Outdoor Associates right behind them, managed to throw the deal into arbitration.

The owner of Outdoor is Glenn Emanuel, who is represented by attorney Michael Tidus, both veterans in the industry who know how to navigate through city staff and paperwork.

And now they have access and the ear of certain Norwalk officials.

Tidus and Emanuel are involved in a billboard deal with the city of Norwalk, for some reason operating under a different company called Evergreen Media.

Evergreen is a Limited Liability Company, and was registered in Delaware according to documents on the California Secretary of State’s website, but “converted” to California registration on Dec. 30, 2019, right during the Norwalk billboard process.

Document from SOS’s website showing Evergreen’s corporate status.

 

 

 

Evergreen first appeared at the November 13, 2019 Norwalk Planning Commission meeting to pitch their deal, but, hearing that some commissioners and residents wanted to send out the deal for a bid, asked to table the item for a later meeting.

It came back on November 20 and the same complaint emerged about the project not going out to bid, so it was tabled once again by staff to “gather more information.”

No meetings were scheduled after November. Then the March elections resulted in new appointments to the commission.

Just two months later, Evergreen is back on the planning commission agenda knocking on the door and trying to land the billboard agreement.

HMG has obtained tonight’s Norwalk Planning Commission staff report related to recommending a development agreement for the billboard on Firestone Blvd.

It is a no-bid contract, and staff is recommending that the planning commission should approve the agreement and send it on to City Council.

The recipient in Evergreen Media, LLC.

There are questions as to why staff recommended approval when other planning commissioners and residents wanted to see an open bidding process.

And under state law it should be sent out to bid.

“I was for the bidding process when I was a commissioner, and I am still for it,” said Scott Collins, “who knows if they are giving us the best deal?”

The revenue deal for the city is in fixed payment increments, with payments of $150,000 in years 1-3; $175,000 in years 4-5; $200,000 in years 6-10; $225,000 in years 11-15; $250 in years 16-20; and $300,000 in years 21-30.

There are several other billboard companies in the area, including Bulletin Displays, that can accommodate the development agreement, which is not a static document, but Bulletin did not have a chance to bid as no RFP was sent out.

Making the agreement even more questionable is the fixed payment schedule, which does not take into account upswings in advertising rates and increased revenues.

Often times the billboard company will negotiate revenue percentages given to the city.

Sending the contract out to bid would have, according to industry experts, produced a gross revenue bid, which accounts for upswings in the market.

Revenue increases and payments to the city increase, yet staff decided on the fixed schedule without bidding the contract out.

HMG has learned that Luis Navas, Councilman Rick Ramirez’ Commissioner, is for the bidding process.

Other commissioners could not be reached for comment.

 

 

 

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