Fleishman back in the news *


It's been a while since Fleishman-Hillard has made the news, but above the fold on today's front page, the Times says that the politically connected PR giant routinely inflated its billings to the city of Los Angeles. The story is mainly based on seven ex-employees — only one of them, Diana Greenwood, named — who say the agency used its $3 million a year contract to advise the Department of Water and Power as a "cash cow," conjuring up billable hours as needed. The head of Fleishman's L.A. office, Doug Dowie, became a close advisor to Mayor Hahn.

Diana Greenwood, the former employee, told the Times, "There was a monthly billing figure that we needed to hit, so if it meant making up stuff, we made up stuff."

The story by Ralph Frammolino and Ted Rohrlich appears to advance earlier accusations of false billing reported by KNBC's Ana Garcia. It also brings Dowie back into the public eye, months after a flurry of attention — including a story by me in Los Angeles — that prompted his move to a lower profile (but higher title) position. Meanwhile, District Attorney Steve Cooley told the Times he was opening a criminal inquiry into the latest charges. And this morning, the new head of Fleishman's office, Richard Kline, told PR Week, "The firm's leadership has no knowledge of any such activity. A review is in progress and if we discover any wrongdoing we will take swift, appropriate steps." Greenwood, by the way, is the daughter of former LAT Senior Editor Noel Greenwood, who for a time supervised both the reporters on the story. According to one source, she also was hired at Fleishman-Hillard by Carol Stogsdill, who had replaced Noel Greenwood at the Times some years before.

Edited 11:50 p.m.

* Friday update: City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo says he'll sue Fleishman to recover any money the city was overbilled. Daily News, Daily Breeze.

Previously on L.A. Observed:
   • Fleishman checking on itself
   • Fleishman throws in the towel
   • Hahn email a fed target
   • Subpeonas for Fleishman
   • Dowie kicked upstairs?

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