At the end of the day...
with all of this being said...
can I see my report? Please,
Kudos if you do!
“An Informed Public Is A Happy Public” in Commerce City
Opinion By Editor Kathy McIntyre (facts and musings and figurings of $403,992.56)

Where to start? When working on the headline for this story, we all knew it had to be catchy because two years after Deal Breaker, everyone in the state still knows that story is about the former city manager Flannery’s house and the surrounding scandal. We thought about taking off on the city’s infamous “leakage’ report but decided that even though it is a lot of “leakage”, we just don’t like that word so much.

So why City Confidential? Commerce City staff is not transparent and they protect and keep confidential lots of information from their residents and their taxpayers and even our own city council, hence City Confidential. It becomes even more appropriate when city council members that have been on the council prior to this last election in November 2011 were completely shocked by what the Gateway News showed them from our public information request about the city’s communication department. We were shocked by their being shocked as they had approved the budget and obviously never looked for or asked for any detail of the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent. Maybe there is miscommunication in the communication’s department.

It is our job at the Gateway News to continue to inform the public and be a watchdog, as no one else appears to be doing the job, which is also shocking. In the words of the city’s own PR agency (yes the city has a PR agency) this is a good thing to do as one of their slogans is “an informed public is a happy public”. Which seems strange as you start to understand what happened here, they did not keep the public informed. Hmmm. Maybe we are not a happy public then. Furthermore, a public relations firm is hired to “spin” stories or again in their own words they help you “with what you want to say, the way it needs to be said”. Maybe all we wanted was the truth and it all just needed to be said factually and not spun.

Speaking of the PR agency, we did call and email them, but received no response for our story. Maybe they are not sure what needed to be said on this occasion. Total silence from the city’s PR agency that we just paid $400,000 to? That hurts. Do we have to pay now for another PR agency to spin a story to us about the first PR agency that is no longer communicating even though that is their job, and what is that going to cost us? One more of the PR agency’s slogans, “Tell us where it hurts and we will fix it”. It is our budget that is hurt right now, will you come fix it? We could use that money that we paid you out of our tax dollars for a lot of things this year.

$403,992.56 of your tax dollars in 18 months left your city to find its way to a house up in Evergreen, Colorado to do everything from buying bagels and renting table linens (even though the city owns a restaurant) to writing press releases to helping HR with employee disputes to “taking things off one employee’s plate” over and over again at your expense (diet maybe?) to hiring employees to assisting the economic development director on a phone call with Walmart week after week (why did our highly paid economic development director need help making a phone call?) to a recreation center guide with a beautiful photo of kids sledding in Evergreen a community photographically convenient to the PR agency but 60 miles away from Commerce City (where most of our kids are confined) to a hail storm response (not sure why we need public relations for that, it was an act of God really) to key messaging for Flannery’s compensation package (that we needed) to buying rope for flags at our very own newly purchased dog track (which was purchased with $3,000,000 of your tax dollars). Which brings me to where the story starts.

On December 12, 2011, the city council met and there was a presentation about public input meetings about the newly purchased dog track. During that presentation, Communications Director Michelle Halstead said that one of the ideas was to put soccer fields at the dog track. Kroenke Sports Entertainment was in the audience and did leave the room then, and as owners and operators of a world class soccer complex here in the city, I must wonder what they were thinking.

The subject of what these public input meetings cost was brought up by Councilmember Steve Douglas and Halstead said it was $54,000 and it was paid to CIG-PR (Communications Infrastructure Group), the house up in Evergreen. There were a total of 143 comment forms turned in at these public meetings, so it cost us roughly $447 per comment form. It begs the question, why couldn’t someone on city staff run these meetings and take comments from citizens and stakeholders, why did we have to have $54,000 used for this?

Couldn’t they have just put a drop box in the lobby of city hall or taken suggestions by email? The final results of all that money spent, citizens want to see Parks and Recreation, Sports, Arts and Entertainment, or Retail Business at the old dog track. Are they sure? Because I thought the property would be better suited to say a fracked oil well or two with a NASCAR track running around them. Also it seems like that is what any city any where in the world would want to see on any vacant piece of property.

On the tape of that meeting, the link is below, at the one hour forty minute mark, you can hear the rest of the conversation between Halstead and Councilman Douglas where he asks her how much more have we paid this group in Evergreen and she states it was less than $100,000 for graphics. That is when my radar went up. That was a shocking amount when it is going outside of our city with our own unemployment rate so high for what is not a very highly skilled job. In the days of desktop publishing and graphics, most high school students could do this work. But at any rate there are dozens of adults in our city who would have loved to have a chance to do this type of work for the city that have experience.

I did the public information request and could hardly think straight after I saw the total volume of pages that were summarizing the work for half of 2010 and all of 2011 done by CIG-PR. The amount of over $400,000 is not only extravagant in comparison to rates in the Denver metro area for this type of work, but for two thirds of that time we were also paying a very high salary, along with a generous benefit package, to Halstead as Director of Communications. Does she not have the skill set to do graphics, publishing, writing press releases, talking to people? Was this work below or above her pay grade? So why was an outside agency needed to do all of her work? What was she doing all day?

One explanation that I was given was that she was trying to “staff up”. Excuse me, Brighton has roughly the same population that Commerce City does and they actually have things happening that are real news and they have one person with a budget of a little over $180,000 (2012). When the Gateway News was born in 2005, Commerce City did not have a communications department; the city didn’t even have a PIO except in the police department.

Our Communications department is leaping from a budget of $400,000 last year in 2011 to a budget of over $800,000 in 2012 and for what? Why couldn’t in January of 2011 when Halstead was hired, an ad be placed in say the Denver Post for whatever “staff” was needed? There would have been over a hundred resumes of highly qualified candidates on the HR desk come Monday, and all willing to work for $30,000 a year or even less. Unemployment has been in double digits, please, really. This would have saved tens of thousands of dollars.

For those readers who are fans of the movie Office Space, there really was an office space moment, “a PC load letter”, buried deep in the ream of paper for this request. CIG-PR actually billed us the taxpayers for taking comments from two city employees in the communications department to give to their direct supervisor, who is one of the long gone assistant city managers. Guess they are people people right? They talk to people and then tell other people what those people have said, and cover their report with a “TPS cover sheet”.

The “work” that was done out of the house in Evergreen is also somewhat stunning as the majority of the weeks show that 10% to 17% of their time was used to “monitor” and “write reports for executive staff” about the Gateway news blog, the one that all the citizens leave their opinions on. My first question is, since when does a city have “executive staff”, they are all PUBLIC SERVANTS. My second question is, why was our city spying on the citizens and having reports written about it? And what decisions were made or actions taken based on comments on the blog.

Our blog feels so special now that we are having a hard time getting him back to a humble state where he can be fed again. He got so excited when he found out that people were writing about him. Happens every time the Denver Post refers to him too. Oh boy.

We have of course asked the city in many ways, to get copies of the blog reports, but in their typical style of we don’t have them, we have been unable at this point to obtain them so we can share them with you, our readers. And the blog of course wants to see them too, he feels it is like his report card and he wants to know how well he has done.

The city assistant attorney Karen Stevens said that they only have to provide records that they have custody of and that certain managers are gone now and they took the reports with them. When pointed out that this was wrong because the Colorado Opens Records Act states that it is custody and CONTROL of records that they must provide, we still have not been given the reports. Guess it is how you interpret the law, right?

So in 2008 and 2009 and 2010, with not enough money in the city budget to do sidewalk repair, buy street lights, a new tractor and other safety measures when an employee was fatally injured at the Buffalo Run Golf Course, and deficits of from $1.8 million to over $4 million, our city spends over $400,000 in public relations services when we are already spending lots of money on an entire communications staff. And they want to have us pay for our own trash and recycling. Sorry, wrong, they need to cut expenses first, not take away services. Now that I am a member of the informed public, I am still not happy. Maybe informed doesn’t mean happy really.

Please see the link of the original meeting below at the one hour and forty minute mark. See the entire public information request in a fun flip book format (we wanted you to enjoy it while you see your tax dollars flying off the page in a westerly direction) and our own attempt at a summary spreadsheet of all the documents we were given to arrive at the six figure total. Please leave your comments below and maybe attend city council on a Monday night and give your comments in person during citizen’s communication, since the city puts such a high price on communication.

$400,000 for CIG-PR in Evergreen, $800,000 for communications department budget, $5 for public information request, a story like this, priceless.

Watch for another spin on this story in another local paper, please don’t get dizzy.

Video Reference Click Here...
Summary of Public Request by Gateway News Click Here...
Documents from Commerce City Click Here...


dkeys said...

add up all the waste.

the highest car allowance in the state, the top heavy staff that left and apparently did not needed replaced. the CM house, all of the consultants for BS.

We could have easily had a rec center in the north.

Great job!

Brian H. said...

That is a lot of money.

Those better be some damn pretty graphics!

King of Olive Street said...


You just want the impossible, a completely transparent, total efficient government.

This such of a thing just does not exists.

Anonymous said...

What a waste!
Staff and Council completely out of touch with reality.

It should be mandatory that all the council visit the poorer areas of town and then go and try to approve budgets with this kind of crap in it.

Jasmine (N Range) said...

Good to know someone is reading this.

I know they make a lot of money to monitor this, so I will really start thinking about good things to say before I write them.

Curious in Reunion said...


So that is where the money went that Jerry paid back from the house that we gave him, right?

Hyde said...

I will do PR from my house for half that amount.

Yuri said...

We had city news before this PIO, why did we all of a sudden need a PR/Graphic firm?

What changed from the way we were doing it before?

Core Comments said...

Is Commerce City still going to work with this outside firm?

Why is it a Flat Rate for service all of the time? Makes no sense, if it was real hours, it should be all different amounts.

The photos in OUR rec center guide with the kids in Evergreen down right PISS me off!

Thad said...

City should hire a Public Relations Firm for the oil and gas mess.

Or did they already?

Ollie said...

So was the stupid elephant budget thing part of this PR firm?

I hope not!

That is a lot of money!

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the story is here. I guess I am jaded because I hear about gov. waste all of the time.

Vikki said...


Again, thanks for the backup.

If anything, at least we are all in the know now.

Anonymous said...

have CIG PR. but you can't have a communications dept. and a PR firm.

Choose one or the other.

Marcus said...

I have a feeling some of these hours maybe padded!

Then again, I bet they never thought it would end up on the internet for all to see.

Bud said...

I remember the old days when Commerce City did its own news letter, city lights and it cost peanuts compared to this mess.

Not really shocked said...

OMG! another story about gov waste.

Cheo said...

If you ever do get the blog reports. PLEASE post them here. I would like to see them. After all, it was my tax dollars that paid for them.

Von, CC Business said...

Commerce City can now add Public Relations services as one of the leakage points to the list of leakage out of the city.

Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

In this digital age, I am pretty sure those blog reports were emailed to the "executive" staff.

It should be VERY easy to get those.

I think the city is just playing NOT nice because they dont like you guys.

Also, if CIG PR is still a vendor, why can't the city just ask them?

GOP in CC said...

Commerce City has had a "Republican" at the helm for the last 8 solid years.

This is a LOT of government for a supposed Republican!

Paul Floth said...

Gateway News,

You are asking way too hard questions!
Why can't you only focus on the positive like what N. Korea does?

dkeys said...

Wow Halstead got caught! listen to the video 1 hour 40 mins!

Anonymous said...

Karen Morales and Michelle Halstead worked together at Kiewet Construction. GN find out how Halstead was hired at Commerce City. Ask where the job was posted and see if there was anybody else who applied. The "company" in Evergreen hired her because they were friends.

Estelle Remington said...

City Confidential

Thank you, Gateway, for your recent information about writer's to the blog. Many of us already knew that an outside agency was putting a PR spin on what was being said on GN Blog and that complete files are kept under different comments by PR department at taxpayer's expense. It became apparent with comments that came straight out of CC/PR sub-culture to the blog. I really don't think that council members nor top staff has any idea the extent to which this has occurred over these past years or how opinion controlling it has become. They use racial differences against each other to their own advantage. They use North and South against each other and most don't know it is happening. If, you are mad about something, you are not thinking straight. I have long suspected that the Dog Track meetings were nothing more than a publicity stunt to make people believe they had any input into upcoming development. I knew they were paying a company to facilitate this entire process. I did not know how much! My thought was that they should pay the person that came up with the winning idea. This concerns me about any current citizen committees and/or Boards and Commissions in that we just think we have some control but it may be nothing more than a smoke screen to cover covert activities all at taxpayer's expense.

John said...

GOP-Not such a Grand OL' Party as far as I'm concerned.

DeeDee said...

same group that did the peanuts in the bag with money that dont have?

Anonymous said...

From 2011- to 2012, the communications budget doubled. Are we getting 100% more service for the more than $800,000?

Estelle Remington said...

Please, if you do nothing else, please, look at and read the document sections of the City Confidential article in GN. There are special interest groups in CC that are working behind key committees to undo and change even city council's passed motions. Some residents of CC feel that their phones and e-mail are closely monitored. These special interest groups, ask, no demand that their representatives be named to these key committees for the sole purpose of changing expected outcomes taking us far away from any democratic process of government. What the voters want. Because these groups do not actually have the power to vote they are manipulating the decision making process in CC by the power of representation in numbers instead of actual constitutional right. In other words, they are coming in through the back door for taxpayers money. If, what I am saying is not making sense to you, read it again and look at the documents until it makes sense.

Dwight, Commerce City said...

such BS. What a god damn waste!

Gateway News said...

After writing your comments, make sure that when you hit "PUBLISH YOUR COMMENT" your comment disappears. Other wise, we did not receive it.

Any questions let us know.

Estelle Remington said...


I want to say, hello, to the Communications Infrastructure Group out at 32973 Geheva Lane, Evergreen, CO 80439 Office 303-289-3619. The owner Karen Morales and Office Manager, Terri Atmore, Staff members: Amy Ford, Megan Rees and Matt Wittern. For over one year CIG has "Monitored news clips and blog postings; deliver summaries to select Executive Staff " for 10% of their time working for CC Communication Department. All of their expense hours were billed to Michelle Halstead and/or copied to Jim Hayes and they reported to CM Jerry Flannery, Deputy CM Tom Acre and Nanette Neelan on a weekly basis. They held six community meetings on the development of ideas for the Dog Track and were paid in four installments: Aug. 31, 2011 $28,403; Sept. 30, 2011, $9,467; Oct. 30, 2011, $9,467; Nov. 30, 2011, $9, 468. Each meeting had about four staff members present and at four meetings they had 100 forms filled out with a total of six meetings and 143 forms. The Firm's fixed project fee: $56,805 sent Aug. 29, 2011 to Michelle Halstead by Terri Atmore. CIG was hired at a time when we needed a Communications Director and as far a I can tell they did a good job for CC. Even if, some of their charges were outrageous for their time and information gathered. Today, we can not afford to keep both the CC team and Michell Halstead and CIG working in communications. In 2012, they plan to double their expenses from $400 to $800,000 per year. (City Confidential, GN, documents.) At Dec. 12, 2011 City Council meeting, Michelle Halstead reported $54,000 for meetings and 700 returned forms. If, any of my blog writings were missed, I keep a library and would be happy to make sure that CIG gets them.

Anonymous said...

32 comments? Looks like this 2nd "expose" by the Gateway News is not paying off like you thought it would?