Doing “mental work” for the city just got a little more lucrative. On Tuesday the Birmingham City Council passed a resolution renewing the contract of LW Associates to serve as a consultant for Councilor Kimberly Rafferty, and increasing their pay from $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
Previously, when asked what work product LW Associates had provided over the last year for Rafferty’s office, the councilor responded in an email saying, “So most of our work is mental, not transcribing. The contract did not call for him to generate a paper trail.”
As written in Tuesday’s agenda, there is no mention of LW Associates needing to leave a paper trail for the work they will be doing this year either (The item was passed on the consent agenda).
LW Associates is run by father-son duo, Lou Willie IV and Lou Willie III. The younger Willie served as an assistant in Rafferty’s office from 2009-2011.
Last year, when the initial contract was passed by the council, LW Associates’ website was strongly geared towards, “Getting Candidates Re-elected” and political campaigning. Less than a week later the website was reduced to a home page with biographies of the Willies.
Rafferty previously characterized this change as being motivated by “bully tactics” used by the $40 billion rideshare company Uber, which was in negotiations at the time to begin operations in Birmingham. Uber representatives cited Rafferty as one of the main opponents to their business model.
The issue with LW Associates was raised for three reasons. First, Willie IV used to work in Rafferty’s office. Second, Willie III represented several small cab companies in Birmingham as an attorney and LW Associates worked for Rafferty during the time she chaired the transportation committee considering whether rideshare company Uber would be allowed to gain a foothold in the city.
Third, LW Associates was hired ostensibly to do work on community events in Rafferty’s district at a time when it was portraying itself as focused on helping politicians get elected. The website where LW Associates characterized its business in political terms has subsequently been deleted altogether.
“I would assume after the unsubstantiated accusations and attacks that Uber supporters engineered through social media and the press caused him to rethink his set up and again, as is his God given [sic] right, to modify his presentation and if that included no internet [sic] linkage, well, that is legal, is it not?” Rafferty said in an email. “I too, if unfairly and libelously attacked by a $40 billion bully and the minions, would tend to step back and reformulate my business plan.”
Without a functioning website, it is hard to determine what type of work will be produced by LW Associates moving forward. Efforts to reach LW Associates for comment were unsuccessful as of the time this story went to print.
However, Willie III took to Facebook after a recent story in Weld to clarify the work his company conducted for Rafferty and explain the changes in the website.
“[LW Associates] was formed by my son and me to provide strategic planning and consulting services to individuals, companies, political aspirants, and governmental entities. Our initial thought was that the primary focus of the company would involve political campaigns, and the web site [sic] design reflected that concept,” the elder Willie wrote.
“In very short order, we realized that there would be a much greater diversity of clients that we could work with, and changes were made to the site. As any good person does, we continuously evaluated our marketing efforts, which included the internet presence, and realized that it would have very little impact on securing new clients. These things were the catalyst for the changes made to the site, and its ultimate deletion.”
Despite multiple attempts over the last few months requesting documented instances of work that LW Associates provided, neither Rafferty nor LW Associates has been able to produce any documents.
After a recent story in Weld, Rafferty did give clues as to the kind of work LW Associates provided for her office in a strongly worded email to Weld publisher, Mark Kelly. While she did mention that she could provide spreadsheets and other documents, Rafferty later said all requests for documents would have to go through the Freedom of Information Act criteria. The city’s legal department, however, said that was not the case.
In her detailed note, Rafferty said that LW Associates attended meetings, did research, gave advice on economic development, helped her understand documents, worked on the budget and created spreadsheets. “He worked in the office every Tuesday for a year,” she said.
Efforts to reach Rafferty to discuss the council’s renewal of the LW Associates contract were unsuccessful.