Steve Sugerman, a former Fleishman Hillard executive who pleaded guilty to felony charges of overbilling the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, has signed a strategic alliance with the L.A. office of Hill & Knowlton.

Sugerman left Fleishman in 2002 because of concerns about the DWP account. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to bilk the city out of $120,000. Due to his cooperation with authorities, he received probation while colleagues Douglas Dowie and John Stodder both received prison time.

Today, Sugerman Communications Group specializes in public affairs and issue management.

Hope Boonshaft, general manager of the local H & K; offices, said her company wants to expand into the public sphere and the Sugerman deal offered a shortcut in spite of any legal history.

"Steve is not only really smart, he's a good guy, a good practitioner," said Boonshaft. "People make mistakes and it's time to put those behind and move on."

Sugerman's clientele are large companies that deal extensively with the government. He has helped shipping giant Maersk navigate the issue of clean air in the ports and real estate developer Playa Vista work with local municipalities, for example.

The agency alliance breaks down geographically. Sugerman brings expertise in dealing with politicians and bureaucracy in Southern California, while H & K; has offices nationally and internationally that can provide service to his clients, Sugerman said.

Both companies will maintain their independence but "for the most part, we'll be collaborators" instead of competitors, Sugerman said.

Award Wrangling

Brave Dog, a new PR agency, specializes in the Hollywood-centric world of advertising award competitions.

The agency manages every aspect of an award's production: development of categories, promotion of the competition, receiving and processing entries, recruiting judges and organizing judging panels, tabulating results and, finally, working with the award show producers. Founders Stephen McCarthy and Juan Carlos Castano previously ran the PromaxBDA Awards, the top prizes for TV and online marketers.

McCarthy said the agency concentrates on advertising competitions because film and script contests are fairly straightforward. By contrast, ads have to be digitized and submitted to multiple judges. The sheer number of entries PromaxBDA often had 12,000 submissions and 500 judges makes an advertising contest a logistical headache.

On the flip side, Brave Dog also consults with ad and PR agencies to get their creations into the right competitions to win awards.


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