By David Gianatasio
BOSTON--Accusations of bias in the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism review emerged last week after presentations by the five finalists vying for the $4-10 million account.
Several sources who requested anonymity said the five-member selection panel is weighted in favor of incumbent Houston Herstek Favat.
The panel includes Mary Jane McKenna, Jonathan Hyde and Diana Salemy--all tourism officials who previously worked closely with Houston Herstek Favat. This virtually assures that the Boston agency will be recommended to retain the account, according to the sources.
Salemy, the tourism office's chief financial officer, strongly denied any favoritism was involved.
The Massachusetts Inspector General's Office has been investigating alleged financial improprieties on the ad account for some time.
Severing ties with Houston Herstek Favat, which has handled the business for six years, might send the message that MOTT did, in fact, believe something was amiss with the billing practices, sources said.
Tourism officials dared not take that chance, so they loaded the panel with Houston Herstek supporters and took the somewhat unusual step of excluding private sector participation, sources said.
Offered Salemy: 'It was all done in accordance with (state policies).'
'I am not a Houston supporter.
I have to oversee the contract. We have to justify our agency recommendation, ' she added.
A decision is expected within the next week or two, Salemy said.
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