CFPUA paying PR firm $25,000 to help with GenX fallout


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Caught without an official spokesperson on staff as it deals with the GenX situation, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is paying a Raleigh-based PR firm to help it handle the fallout.

According to a contract signed Monday and obtained by WWAY through a public records request, CFPUA will pay Eckel & Vaughan a maximum of $25,000 for a year of service.

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According to the contract, Eckel & Vaughan will provide CFPUA with strategic communications service in the form of:

  • Ongoing Counsel and Service in support of CFPUA crisis communications and reputation management needs in response to the recent media coverage over potential contaminants in the water supply. Counsel and Service efforts will include:
    • Media Relations Support
    • Message Development
    • Traditional and Social Media Monitoring
  • Eckel & Vaughan will create a Crisis Communications Response Plan that will enable the CFPUA to strategically respond to media and community inquiries. The Crisis Communications Response Plan will include:
    • Message Development
    • Message Training
    • Action Plan Development

At least two members of the Eckel & Vaughan team, including founder Albert Eckel and account supervisor Anna-Marshall Wilson, were at yesterday’s CFPUA Board of Directors special meeting helping the board handle the news media.

Eckel & Vaughan also handled the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s regional marketing initiative that launched during the Wells Fargo Championship.

CFPUA has been without an in-house communications manager since Executive Director Jim Flechtner fired Chief Communications Officer Mike McGill on April 19 shortly before a meeting with CFPUA and Dr. Detlef Knappe, one of the authors of the study that found GenX in the Cape Fear River. McGill was schedule to be part of that meeting. CFPUA and McGill settled on a separation agreement two days later. McGill’s successor has not been publicly announced.

Following his departure, McGill, who had been making nearly $100,000 a year at CFPUA, started his own company called WaterPIO, which provides communications support for water and sewer providers. Among his first clients is CFPUA, which agreed to pay McGill $13,300 to produce its next annual report.