Wharton hires public relations firm to explain health care cuts

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis’s mayor keeps saying how tight money is, but somehow the city found $24,000 to hire a public relations firm to get the city’s message out to the public about cuts to health care benefits.

WREG has learned the city hired a public relations firm to explain cuts to employees, retirees and taxpayers.

“The parks division has a person. The mayor has a person. The libraries have a couple of people,” said Memphis city councilman Jim Strickland.

Strickland thinks the city already pays too many people to do PR. He thinks Mayor A C Wharton’s decision to hire another firm is a bad idea.

“Certainly to go outside city government and spend $24,000 on someone from the outside, I think is certainly an unwise thing to do,” said Strickland.

A purchase order obtained by WREG shows the mayor hired public relations firm Archer Malmo earlier this week.

He wants the firm to explain controversial healthcare cuts. City workers aren’t happy with how the mayor or council members spin the situation.

Wharton said, “We were getting complaints that we were not getting the information out timely enough, and it is well worth the cost to make sure that everybody knows what’s happening.”

According to city hall, there’s only one professional trained communicator, and the mayor says she can’t do it all.

“It is a massive undertaking understanding the Affordable Care Act and so many people. We have so many different categories,” said Wharton.

However, some critics of the cuts question the hiring for a number of reasons.

“I think they’re using spin to do a lot of things in this city to get their message out,” said Mike Williams, Memphis Police Association president.

Williams thinks Archer Malmo was hired to do public damage control. We reminded him the union also used marketing to get its message across. He believes there’s a difference.

Williams said, “But that’s our dime. That’s not the taxpayer dime. They’re spending my money to do that.”

The mayor doesn’t call it damage control, but his office says it does want to make sure citizens get accurate information about what’s happening and that they understand the long- and short-term affects.

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