Holland and Knight, whose contract expired in December 2011, was the last lobbyist employed by the county.
Then-county Chairman Sam Olens hired the firm to lobby for the county at the federal level.
The county paid the firm $120,000 per year, said county spokesman Robert Quigley.
Opportunities for Cobb to obtain federal earmarks were much easier when Olens was chairman, said county Chairman Tim Lee.
“When I got into office, I did not renew that contract because the landscape in Washington was changing so dramatically, and so I set off for the next two years to analyze what and how the resource should be, so we spent in earnest the last year pulling together what we thought would be the best for the county in terms of legislative impact, and so we decided that having a firm that can handle the state and also manage the feds and their new way of doing business,” Lee said.
Now that earmarks are scarce, the way t
o secure federal dollars is by working through the various federal departments, Lee said.
The county issued a request for proposals for a lobbyist and received five responses.
Those responses were ranked with Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter 360 coming in first, McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP second, Holland & Knight third, Bryan Cave fourth, and a joint partnership of Aronnax Public Strategies, LLC and the Vaquer Firm, LLC fifth.
Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter 360 is led by Marietta attorney Heath Garrett, former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. (Full disclosure: Garrett’s wife, Lee Garrett, is general manager of the MDJ.)
At the state level, Lee said his goal is for the firm to lobby on behalf of the county’s interest in the Georgia General Assembly.
“It’s to develop relationships not only with the legislators of the Cobb delegation, but with the leadership of the committees that would be entertaining legislation that would either be for or against our interests,” Lee said. “Very often what lobbyists do best is to stop a bill or to change a bill before it becomes law as opposed to introduce legislation, and often the committees in which those get amended or changed or stopped are led by people who are not part of the Cobb delegation, so it’s a matter of understanding what legislation is getting introduced, how it may or may not affect Cobb, what committee it’s gone through, who the leadership is involved with that and having relationships with those people so we can influence legislation before it gets down the train tracks,” Lee said.
If approved, Garrett’s firm would be paid $168,000 annually.
But don’t count on Commissioner Bob Ott as an immediate yes vote. Ott says he’s still reviewing the contract.
“My biggest issue is going to be determining whether or not we need a lobbyist in the first place,” Ott said Friday.
General contractor to be selected
As reported by the MDJ last week, American Builders 2017 has been selected as the “construction manager at risk” to build the Braves stadium, a position similar to general contractor.
A committee composed of county and Braves staff selected American Builders, a joint venture between Birmingham, Ala.-based Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, which built the Georgia Aquarium; Minneapolis, Minn.-based M.A. Mortenson Company, which is building a stadium for the Minnesota Vikings; Southfield, Mich.-based Barton Malow Company, which oversaw the Rose Bowl Stadium renovation; and Atlanta-based New South Construction Company, which built Whitefield Academy’s academic and athletic facilities, as well as Cobb County’s work release building, a minimum security facility for inmates.
A maximum fee for building the stadium will be voted on by commissioners after American Builders has a chance to obtain pricing from subcontractors.
“They’ll have to come back once the design for the stadium is done and come up with a maximum price for actually building it,” Lee said.
Commissioners are also set to vote on contract language that spells out the details of a framework agreement the county approved with the franchise last November.
The contracts range from a non-relocation agreement to development and construction agreements.
Ott, who represents the area where the stadium is to be built, said he spent four to five days reading hundreds of pages of contract language.
“I made a list of questions and comments and plan on speaking with the county attorney and some other county staff over the weekend as I go through the responses to my questions,” Ott said. “My primary focus in going through it is to make sure the county from a financial aspect was protected.”