INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana’s economic development agency isn’t saying what work a New York-based public relations firm did for the state before officials canceled its contract to assess the damage the national outcry over a new religious objections law caused to Indiana’s reputation.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced the contract cancellation Thursday, saying it would pay Porter Novelli $365,000 for work already completed since being hired in May.
Agency officials, however, denied a request for any reports or recommendations furnished by the firm, The Indianapolis Star reported (https://indy.st/1LZHOx0 ).
“Discussions with our contractor were, as you can expect, wide-ranging and geared toward assessing our current position and how we can continue to improve our ongoing marketing efforts,” IEDC spokeswoman Abby Gras said in an email. “The nature of those discussions (is) necessarily confidential as they are deliberative efforts for the IEDC to consider various factors as part of its decision making.”
The agency had planned to pay Porter Novelli up to $750,000 to help develop a plan to rebuild the state’s image after widespread criticism over the religious objections law that Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed into law in March. Critics contended the law would allow religious beliefs as a legal defense for discrimination against lesbians, gays and others.
The firestorm quieted after lawmakers revised its language, but convention and tourism officials across the state say they are still being questioned about that law and that its true effects might not be known for years.
IEDC executive vice president Chris Cotterill on Thursday cited strong employment numbers, national recognition for the state’s business-friendly climate and cost management efforts in the decision to cancel the contract.
The Pence administration and the global PR firm also expressed different opinions on gay rights. Last week, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Pence issued a statement expressing disappointment in the decision. Porter Novelli, on the other hand, expressed support for the LGBT community, replacing its company logo’s usual orange color with rainbow colors on its website.
But if policy or ideological differences played a role in the termination of the contract, neither side is saying so.
“Our agreement did not involve policy or legislation,” Gras said. “Any speculation to the contrary is incorrect.”
Porter Novelli said in a statement that it respected the agency’s decision.
“We also know that, when assessed on the basis of its dynamic and diverse workforce, its commitment to innovation, abundant natural resources and thriving arts and cultural offerings, Indiana has a great story to tell,” the statement said. “We hope that the framework developed by Porter Novelli, which sets forth best practices for future efforts, proves useful to our trusted colleagues in the IEDC.”
Cotterill said in April that the state planned to spend $2 million with Porter Novelli, plus however much more was needed in advertising buys.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody criticized the decision to cancel the contract, saying it “raises more questions than provides answers.”
“Indiana can’t afford the cost of kneejerk reactions due to mismanagement by the Pence administration,” he said.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com
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