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Tue, March 19

Big Chino lobbyist replaces PR firm

PRESCOTT VALLEY - The lobbyist representing the Town of Prescott Valley and the City of Prescott in the Big Chino water project has replaced its public relations firm with an operator with higher statewide visibility.

Mitch Menlove, a lobbyist with offices in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., confirmed that he replaced subcontractor Policy Development Group with Rose & Allyn Public Relations, both of Phoenix.

Policy Development Group, which began its subcontract about a year ago, developed a website and used social media tools to promote the controversial project to pipe water from the Big Chino sub-basin northwest of Paulden.

"We certainly have parted company," Menlove said. "There was a whole host of reasons."

Menlove denied a perception that Policy Development Group was not "aggressive" enough.

"Policy Development served the city (of Prescott and Prescott Valley) very well, and there were a whole host of things they provided," he said.

Menlove said he wanted to use "additional strategies" but declined to be specific, adding, "My role is not (dealing) with the media."

Policy Development Group staff declined comment on the change in PR firms.

The new contract started Oct. 22 with a tour of the Big Chino water ranch site, said Jason Rose, a partner with Rose & Allyn.

"First of all, I'm an Arizona native," Rose said. "I've spent a lot of good times in Prescott and Prescott Valley. We are learning about the (pipeline) issue."

Referring to issues, Rose continued, "We are going to be giving the recommendations to the client shortly."

He described as important learning about criticism of the project, which comes from residents in the tri-city area and Verde Valley who fear the pipeline would harm the Verde River.

"I can assure you we will be in a position to offer recommendations very shortly," Rose said, declining to elaborate.

Rose described his firm as being "Republican leaning" that included the political campaigns of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

He said his firm would not do any advocacy against voter approval Nov. 3 in Prescott of Proposition 401, the Taxpayer Protection Initiative. Opponents, including city government officials, fear approval could defeat the Big Chino project because it and other capital projects that cost $40 million or more would require voter approval.

Rose said constraints on the use of public money bar his firm from advocacy on Prop. 401.

The Town of Prescott Valley this past April approved a contract with Menlove's company, Policy Impact Communications, at $12,000 a month. Prescott Valley has paid 46 percent of the contract and Prescott has paid for the majority of it.

Prescott Valley Water Resources Manager John Munderloh, Town Attorney Ivan Legler and Assistant Attorney Colleen Auer, consult once a week over the phone with Menlove and the PR team, Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said.

"If I am involved, I provide technical expertise," Munderloh said. He added Rose is "not permitted to go beyond the hard facts.

"They have the level of expertise that the communities don't," Munderloh said.

Prescott Valley and Prescott officials drew fire in the first place by hiring Menlove a year ago while he worked for Greenberg Traurig. The Prescott Valley council approved the new contract because Menlove parted company.

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