At Mass. park, a PR person for every five acres

Posted Feb. 08, 2012, at 6:06 a.m.
Last modified March 07, 2012, at 9:20 a.m.

The taxpayer-funded Rose Kennedy Greenway pays three separate outside publicists to burnish the image of the nonprofit charged with overseeing the 15-acre downtown park — the equivalent of one flack for every five acres.
Lisa Quackenbush of Bedford-based CuePR manages “public awareness … and trying to get good stories written about the Greenway,” the nonprofit’s chairwoman Georgia Murray explained yesterday in a wide-ranging interview with Herald editors and reporters.
Pam McDermott of Hub-based McDermott Ventures develops strategy for the proposal to get businesses along the Greenway to fund the nonprofit. And Tom Palmer, a former Boston Globe reporter who previously covered the Greenway and the Big Dig, helps with that strategy, according to Murray.
Murray, a managing partner of the real-estate investment firm MMI LLC, vowed to reveal how much the nonprofit pays its publicists today. But Quackenbush balked at the Herald’s request yesterday, saying, “I don’t really see why … it’s relevant. Again, I don’t get paid out of state money.”
“It’s a complex organization,” Palmer told the Herald at a Greenway public meeting yesterday morning. “I try to translate for reporters,” added Palmer, who also declined to reveal his Greenway pay.
McDermott could not immediately be reached for comment last night.
The Greenway, which spent more than $2 million in state transportation funds last year, hired its team of media consultants long before the tiny nonprofit came under scrutiny after Herald stories spotlighting the six-figure salaries doled out to five top staffers, including executive director Nancy Brennan.
In its sitdown with the Herald, Murray, Brennan, Quackenbush and Greenway board member Robert Gore sought to stress the nonprofit’s new efforts toward greater openness.
“We do understand we are a public park and we embrace that,” Murray said. “We want a culture of transparency.”
Yet the Greenway — under fire from state officials for its attempts to withhold Brennan’s $185,000 salary from the Herald — dug in its heels yesterday and refused to release contracts with outside vendors as well as the identities of staffers on its payroll, citing privacy issues.
Asked about possible public concerns over whether the Greenway had made patronage hires, Murray said, “It doesn’t concern me because I know we’re not doing it.”
But at the agency’s public meeting yesterday morning, Christian Scorzoni, a member of the Greenway’s advisory board, raised his own concerns about the nonprofit’s new transparency policy.
“I think it’s a great start,” Scorzoni said. “I wonder whether it’s a enough.”
Meanwhile, state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey is urging the nonprofit to wean itself off public funding, but Murray insisted yesterday, “That is not a goal of the Greenway.”
Indeed, she boasted that the conservancy spends less money running the park than the state would. Said Murray: “We are a bargain.”

(c)2012 the Boston Herald
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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