Fort Bend County’s controversial community vaccine outreach contract, ostensibly to increase the vaccination rate among certain segments of the population over the last eight months, has resulted in 90 pages of invoices, including time sheets, bills from subcontractors and payment receipts, and the “chosen” contractor has been paid more than $100,000 so far.
What did the contractor, Next Wave Strategies, deliver for this money?
Marketing copywriting and proofreading services by a company on Oregon, Digital campaign and creative asset development by a firm in Atlanta, GA, Models for vaccine self-hesitancy, vaccine adoption, and parental vaccine hesitancy on behalf of their children (for Fort Bend residents) from a California-based firm, graphic design, audio visual rental services for press conference from Houston vendors and project management and consultant fee of $56,000 for four months by the two principals of Next Wave Strategies, Erika Johnson and Shekira Dennis.
Erika Johnson, managing partner of Next Wave, in a letter dated Jan. 4, 2022 wrote that
”Due to the significant internal delay in project implementation (five months),” the subcontract for monthly qualitative analysis was reduced “until we resume the full scope of all project activities. The internal delay affected some of the key interdependent components and outputs that are critical to the qualitative analysis process.”
The invoice details raise more questions about what the contractor has accomplished so far because they do not seem to match the deliverables promised by the contractor, namely, “Conduct Market Research and Data Analysis; Define Strategy; Outreach, Engagement, and Communication, and Assess and Measure Deliverable Outcome.”
What is the need for renting audio visual services for a press conference at a cost of $1,014?
Where does the contract say that Next Wave shall arrange for a press conference? Was there a press conference?
One invoice from Standout Communications lists communication consultant retainer fee of $1,500 per month.
Erika Johnson, in one time sheet, charges 20 hours (July 12, 13, 14 and 15, 2021) for the following activities, @ 5 hours each day, totaling $1,187. 20. The contract was approved by commissioners court on July 13, 2021.
“Project onboarding. Set up data collection systems, team, and dashboards; Project onboarding. Set up data collection systems, team, dashboards and conducted the market analysis; Project onboarding. Set up data collection systems, team, and dashboards. Sourced and reviewed subcontractors; Project onboarding. Set up data collection systems, team, and dashboards. Sourced and reviewed subcontractors.”
Same details are given in another time sheet for July 26, 27, 28 and 29.
Shekira Dennis has also created identical time sheets to justify their management and consultant fee.
Another sample of the time sheet:
Wednesday, October 06, 2021; Thursday, October 07, 2021; Friday, October 08, 2021
Saturday, October 09, 2021; TITLE: Managing Partner; UNIT RATE: $59.36
Met with NWS data team to review VOIC and shapefiles.
Weekly project team meeting prep (agenda and deliverables). Met with HHS to review action items and weekly vaccine schedule. Vaccine Campaign Presentation Prep. Conducted community partner outreach calls. Drafted GTM plan to prep for launch.
Weekly project team meeting prep (data and survey). Vaccine Campaign Presentation (w/County Judge). Finalized campaign branding kit and creative brief.
Facilitated weekly project team meeting. Creative development meeting (digital). Plan campaign press conference.
Post weekly team meeting deliverables follow-up. Plan campaign press conference and media release. Translate campaign collateral.
Prep campaign press conference and media release. Translate campaign collateral. Segmented trusted messenger lists. Design campaign collateral.
Prep campaign press conference and media release. Translate campaign collateral. Design campaign collateral. TOTAL HOURS: 34”
The second partner has also produced an identical time sheet.
Another time sheet:
Monday, October 18, 2021;Tuesday, October 19, 2021;Wednesday, October 20, 2021; Thursday, October 21, 2021; Friday, October 22, 2021; Saturday, October 23, 2021
T ITLE: Managing Partner; UNIT RATE: $59.36
Weekly project team meeting prep (agenda and deliverables). Met with HHS to review action items and weekly vaccine schedule Prep campaign press conference and media release. Updated translated campaign collateral.
Partnership Discussion call w/ HHS. Design campaign collateral.
Host campaign press conference. Revised digital campaign.
Revised digital campaign.
Post weekly team meeting deliverables follow-up correspondence.
Facilitated Comms meeting. Updated translated campaign collateral.
Review updated digital campaign concepts .Vaccine Hesitancy Collateral meeting. Corresponded with FBC web master about landing page.
Reviewed campaign KPis with digital.
One of the entries in the time sheet for Nov. 19, 2021, says “Project update calls with Dr. Minter, 5 hours. “Nov. 26, 2021, Project update calls with Dr. Minter 5 hrs.”
Interestingly, the second partner’s time sheets are identical to the first one.
To make some sense out of these invoices, Fort Bend Independent sent the following email to Dr. Jacquelyn Minter, director of HHS, with copies to the county attorney and county judge.
After seeing the invoices submitted by Next Wave Strategies, I am trying to understand what exactly were the services provided by them to HHS to increase vaccination among those hesitant and did it help in higher vaccination rate.
I want to see if the contractor provided the services you asked for and if the goals listed in the contract were actually accomplished.
I am citing some examples from the invoice.
Oct. 19, 2021: AV rental for press conference.
Who held the press conference and where?
Why audio/video services had to be rented?
What was the press conference about?
November, December, 2021 and January 2022
Vaccine hesitancy data and outreach tracking services
(Civis model for vaccine self-hesitancy, vaccine adoption and parental vaccine hesitance on behalf of children)
For example, what data pertaining to Fort Bend County did the contractor provide and how it helped shape the vaccination strategy?
Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, Standout Communications, Copywriting and proof reading services
(Archer Diversified, Beaverton, OR)
Prepare campaign press conference and media release , 0ct. 8, 2021 5 hours
Again on Oct. 9, 5 hours’ OPct.15 and Oct 16. Press conference and media release.Oct. 19, 21 Host press conference and revised digital campaign. 5 hrs.
Oct. 20, Revised digital campaign 8 hrs.
Oct. 26. met with webmasters to outline landing page, determine domain, email and partner portal; designed FBC website banner, 5 hours. Developed FBC communication cadence and mixed media schedule; developed FBC partners talking point and press release.
Are these press conference different from the ones you and county judge held periodically?
What data or information did Next Wavel provide for the press conference and media release?
How did website redesign help in vaccine outreach?
Nov. 19 Project update calls with Dr. Minter 5 hrs
Nov. 20 Compiled project summary report 3 hrs
Nov. 26 Project update calls with Dr. Minter 5 hrs
Sept. 21 weekly project meeting, data, survey, mobile vaccine information.
Could you please give a sample of the reports, including data and survey results?
Nov., 12, 2021, Our shot social media, door hangars, flyer redesign, kids social media campaign (24 hrs @$30) Ninh Pham design services
How the campaign was executed and what was the target audience?
Aug. 22, 2021, Sent the perception survey questions and methodology to HHS.
What is the survey questions? How and when the survey was conducted?
What did the survey say?
Micro campaign research development, faith leaders volunteer form and field plan;
What does this mean?
There has been no response yet.
The contract awarding process itself was shrouded in secrecy and improper.
Several reputed communication companies responded and their bids were in the range of $300,000 to $350,000. Next Wave’s bid was for $150,000. The selection committee chose Next Wave as “the most qualified company.”
County Judge KP George got the commissioners court to authorize his office “negotiate” the contract with Next Wave. No details of the original proposal were revealed to the commissioners.
The county judge then unilaterally increased the contract amount from $150,000 to $345,000 and justified it for expanding the scope of the contract.
The two Republican commissioners, Vincent Morales and Andy Meyers, voted against the
Harris County first awarded a similar contract to Next Wave for $11 million and County Judge Leena Hidalgo canceled the contract after questions were raised. The FBI is investigating the case even though the contract was canceled.
The same company, under similar circumstances, got the contract from Fort Bend County.
If Harris County is under investigation, would the probe extend to Fort Bend County?
The FBI, Texas Rangers or Fort Bend County DA may know the answer.