The town of Rotterdam has hired a public relations and marketing firm to handle its communication with the public and the media.
The board voted unanimously at its April 14 meeting to hire The Martin Group of Albany for up to $36,000 between April 2021 and March 2022.
The announcement comes after the Town Board has been mentioned several times in the last two months in The Daily Gazette for: denying access to a Police Department audit, investigating the town clerk for violating town policy, violating the state’s open meetings law and being the subject of a lawsuit involving a town police officer who mistakenly caused a man to go to jail for a few days.
“The Martin Group is assisting us with all internal and external communications, including social media and media relations,” said Town Board member Samantha Miller-Herrera in an email. “Please contact them directly with inquiries moving forward.”
Her statement contradicts earlier statements made Friday by Deputy Supervisor Evan Christou that the board members would remain accessible to the press when they call them.
“I don’t think we should look at it as a replacement for communication,” he said. “We will always be accessible to the public and the press.”
Miller-Herrera, who emailed the newspaper, said the public can still contact them directly.
“The Martin Group is serving as the initial point of contact for media inquiries and will provide statements or arrange interviews when needed,” she said in an email. “Residents will continue to contact town officials through the existing channels.”
One of the challenges with running a municipality, Christou said, is making sure that people are getting the information they need and correct information. He said that can be hard when the Town Board is only part time. The Martin Group is supposed to help with that issue.
“We appreciate this opportunity to engage with the town of Rotterdam on a small contract to assist with both media relations and best practices as it relates to community relations advisement and engagement,” said Andrew Mangini, the senior director and public affairs practice leader for the company. “It is great to see the town acting in a proactive manner as it relates to their communications needs and responsibilities.”
Board members were previously readily available for comments, but on Friday, only Christou answered a phone inquiry, and Miller Herrera sent an email. The remaining members did not respond.
Rotterdam will be the only municipality in Schenectady County with an outside company handling its public relations.