A hearing set for today will address accusations by Baltimore's Eisner Communications that the University of Maryland and Grey Direct cheated in a review for the school's main college—a $7 million piece of business the university wants to award to the New York shop, according to an attorney for Eisner.
The independent has filed three separate protests since November; all have been consolidated for today's hearing before the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals.
The review for UM's University College (UMUC) account began in the spring. Eight shops responded to an RFP; of that group, Eisner and Grey Global Group's Grey Direct were named finalists. In July, Grey was recommended for the job to the state's Board of Public Works.
In a series of complaints to the Board of Contract Appeals, Eisner accuses UMUC officials of having improper contact with Grey Direct during the selection process, as well as of altering its scoring method to favor the New York shop.
The filings claim that in the scoring, UMUC officials decreased the importance of having minority business partners and the economic impact to the state, and by doing so favored Grey Direct. Eisner also argues that UMUC officials had conversations with Grey via e-mail and telephone to inform the shop of the changes.
Eisner is asking that Grey Direct be disqualified or the bids be rescored, said Phil Andrews, attorney for Eisner. "We think we won, and the contract should be awarded to Eisner," Andrews said.
Larry Kimmel, CEO of Grey Direct in New York, said he was "outraged" by the claims that his agency did anything wrong to get the account. "Grey Direct won this competition via an objective scoring method," he said.
A UMUC rep declined comment, pending the outcome of today's hearing. The Board of Public Works will not consider the contract approval until after a ruling by the Board of Contract Appeals.