EXCLUSIVE: USA Swimming’s PR Firm, Ground Floor Media, Has Been Paid at Least $13,000 by the Office of the Colorado State Child Protection Ombudsman

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by Irvin Muchnick

 

Documents obtained by Concussion Inc. through a state public records request reveal that Denver’s Ground Floor Media public relations firm — coordinator of a current $200,000 “crisis communications” campaign on behalf of USA Swimming to stem criticism of its handling of coach sexual abuse cases — has also been paid more than $13,000 in PR fees by the Colorado government’s two-year-old Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman.

The ombudsman, Dennis Goodwin, today emailed me five pages of what appear to be Ground Floor Media invoices to his office. The documents are viewable at http://muchnick.net/groundfloorinvoices.pdf.

Four of the pages show billings of, respectively, $5,527.50, $4,072.50, 1,815, and $1,196.25 — for a total $13,230. A fifth sheet (the second in the uploaded package) appears to be a narrative accounting of the $5,527.50 invoice.

We are awaiting response or comment from ombudsman Goodwin on two questions:

1. Is it appropriate for a state government agency to engage the services of a private public relations firm?

2. What is your rejoinder to those who say that a relationship with Ground Floor Media seems especially inappropriate in light of the apparent conflict with Ground Floor’s “crisis communications” services on behalf of USA Swimming (in regard to the organization’s responsibility for widespread allegations of sexual abuse by its coaches)?

P.S. 3:05 p.m. Pacific Time, August 16

Dennis Goodwin has given us the following statement:

“The Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman is a program that is funded by the State, although not a State agency.   It was created in 2010 to facilitate a process for independent, impartial review of family and community concerns and if appropriate conduct reviews and investigations to help identify and resolve child protection issues.  The Ombudsman Office is a key advisor concerning issues related to child safety and protection in Colorado.
“We do not have a public information officer or marketing director.  Ground Floor media was used to provide initial guidance concerning community outreach and essentially getting the word out about our Office to the community,stakeholders and others involved in the fight to protect children.
“The annual report numbers you quoted is an indication of the success of this program and how it has become a resource for Colorado children.”
Our response is that while the ombudsman’s office is not a conventional state agency, it is most definitely a quasi-government agency and it is funded by the state. That is why Goodwin fulfilled our open records request in the first place. Also, it is clear that much of the current news surrounding the office is its message that it needs additional subpoena and other powers in order to be effective.
Goodwin arguably has answered our first question, but he has ignored our second question, which we will reiterate to him.
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FURTHER READING:

Read USA Swimming’s Shocking Internal Memo — Reducing Sex Abuse to a PR Headache

Published August 4th, 2013
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