Wesminster Hired Sales Tax Increase Consultant Almost Four Months Before Council Placed it On Ballot

More than three months before the Westminster City Council actually voted to place the Measure SS 1-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot, the city had already contracted with a public affairs consultant to conduct a “public education” to lay the groundwork for voter approval of the tax increase.

The City of Westminster signed a contract on March 3 of this year with the public affairs and political consulting firm Lew Edwards Group (LEG), for a not-to-exceed amount of $42,500 to provide “communications and outreach services.” Although contract’s scope of work is broad and non-specific, the intent of hiring LEG is no mystery since the firm specializes in helping local governments secure adoption of tax increases and other revenue measures.

In a letter to the assistant town manager of Los Gatos dated the same day – March 3, 2016 – LEG President Catherine Lew boasts:

LEG has enacted more than $33 Billion in California revenue measures with a 95% success rate and is the California leader in enacting revenue measures for local governments throughout the State.

Lew’s letter to Los Gatos cites the City Westminster as one of its “current sales tax clients” for a “new measure.” As mentioned, the LEG contract with Westminster was signed the same day as the Los Gatos letter was dated.

Even though city staff had contracted with LEW to help enact a sales tax increase, it wasn’t until more than three months later, on June 23, that the Westminster City Council voted to place the tax hike on the November ballot. At that meeting, Councilwoman Diana Carey spoke of the need to hire a consultant to conduct a “public information campaign” to “educate” voters about why a sales tax hike is necessary. Observers of that council meeting have no recollection of staff informing the council that such a consultant had been hired several months earlier.

According to Westminster city staff, the public engagement communications collateral developed under the LEG contract are being finalized.


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