City to hire media information officer at $90K per year


The position would serve as the principal contact with media representatives.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The Malibu City Council at its quarterly meeting last week Wednesday approved adding a new staff position to handle public relations for the city at a cost of approximately $90,000 per year. The city manager says the cost will be offset by the position replacing outside public relations firms to handle the city’s communication with the media and other entities.

The position, called a “Media Information Officer,” will be responsible for “the management and development of a City-wide communications and public relations effort” based on the needs identified by an ad hoc committee that was formed to determine the city’s needs in this area. Other responsibilities of the media information officer would include overseeing the city newsletter and press releases, updating and improving the city’s Web site and cable television content, and serving as the principal city spokesperson with media representatives.

Mayor John Sibert told The Malibu Times that the new position would help the council and city staff be on the same page when interacting with the numerous government and private agencies that have a stake in Malibu.

“We’re 13 thousand people, but we’re subject to more jurisdictions and more controversy than almost any other city of even four or five times our size in California,” Sibert said. “We’re under scrutiny all the time, we’ve got a large number of visitors coming in, we end up with probably more lawsuits per capita than any other city in the state, because everybody just automatically sues the city.

“And we felt that it was very important to be able to communicate better,” the mayor continued. “It’s the job certainly of city council members to be the voices of the city in general, but we need somebody to let us know when there are arrows flying and what we need to be doing and coordinate all this kind of effort.”

The new position will effectively replace Fiona Hutton and Associates, a PR firm retained by the city for assistance with water quality issues, whose contract with the city expired at the end of 2010. The city says the cost of the position will be offset by the savings from the contract with Fiona Hutton, which cost approximately $96,000 a year, while taking a much broader role in PR for the city than outside firms had. City Manager Jim Thorsen said the position would begin advertising the job this week.

The city will advertise the job with a salary range between $64,013 and $83,217, plus benefits. The MIO may receive yearly raises based on performance, but will never make more than the top figure in the range, which is $83,217, Thorsen said.

Councilmembers Pamela Conley Ulich and Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner both floated the idea of hiring a person on a trial basis or exploring requests for proposals (RFPs) for PR firms, but ended up voting for the position after the other council members expressed their desire to begin searching for a candidate immediately in order to get him or her in place soon.

Ulich asked that the new person explore the concept of branding the Malibu name as part of their duties. Through branding, the city would be able to sell items with the City of Malibu logo, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and coffee mugs. Ulich, noting that Malibu receives six million visitors a year, said “If a lot of them want to take back a piece of Malibu, we could end up making hopefully a lot of money [for the city].”