Letter: VCB negotiating outside of sunshine for web services

Name withheld to protect whistleblower
St Augustine, FL

Dear Historic City News editor:

St. Johns County policies state that any contract with a vendor over $3,000 must be put out to bid through the RFP process.

There is a local company that is working outside of the sunshine to gain the business of building and running the Visitors and Convention Bureau website without going through the RFP process, thereby excluding other local businesses that build and maintain websites including but not limited to OldCity.com and VisitStaug.com.

Why is this vendor arrangement, worth tens of thousands of dollars, in the works to hire Henry Hird without allowing other local businesses to bid on the work?

The momentum behind the transfer of hosting and management of the VCB’s website without the scrutiny of the County’s policy to Henry Hird is driven by a local businessman who owns a winery and who currently gets free advertising on Henry Hird’s site, who is conducting private meetings with the executive director of the TDC.

This businessman’s effort to see that the contract for website services goes to Henry Hird is being done without VCB Board involvement or the involvement of the VCB leadership and staff.

If the VCB eliminates its website and redirects its URL to VisitStAugustine.com, owned by Henry Hird, it would boost Hird’s website’s ranking so high that Hird could charge his advertisers much more, gaining Hird an advantage over other local websites run by local businesses.

The businessman negotiating this vendor change would also stand to gain as he advertises on Hird’s site for free.

Hird would make tens of thousands of dollars to manage the VCB website AND would make money off advertising on that site. The money Hird will make through ad sales will be at the expense of bed tax payers.

Is it acceptable for a local business to charge advertising fees to make money on a website paid for by bed tax dollars?

Share your thoughts with our readers >>