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Bad P.R.

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When the biggest splash your public relations firm makes involves getting itself itself in the headlines on charges of fraud, that’s probably not a good sign.

Two former executives at the Fleishman-Hillard public relations firm, Douglas R. Dowie and John Stodder Jr., were accused yesterday of inflating the number of hours for which they charged the city for the firm’s work, and of working on projects for former mayor James Hahn on a contract that was officially with the Department of Water and Power. From most reports, it seems that the firm was awarded millions of dollars in vague contracts, then found itself without enough work to do to fulfill the hours they’d need to bill to earn that amount of money. So they just billed for more hours than they actually worked.

Though his opponents milked the story all they could to question Hahn’s ethics during the recent mayoral campaign, the overbilling scandal itself may not have been what cost Hahn the election. On the other hand, $3 million a year in public relations never won him back the voters he alienated by firing Bernard Parks as police chief, either.